HC seeks Bihar’s reply on plea against quota hike - Hindustan Times

HC seeks Bihar’s reply on plea against quota hike

By, Patna
Dec 01, 2023 09:19 PM IST

On November 9, the Bihar legislature had unanimously passed the two bills, which later received gubernatorial assent.

The Patna High Court on Friday asked the Bihar government to file its reply on a petition challenging the recent hike in reservations for the backward classes and scheduled castes and tribes in government jobs and admissions to educational institutions.

Patna high court (HT file)
Patna high court (HT file)

A division bench headed by Chief Justice K Vinod Chandran and Justice Rajiv Rai asked the state government, which was represented by advocate general P K Shahi, to file its counter affidavit within four weeks.

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“The court has sought reply from the state government and we will file it,”’said Shahi. The government has to file its reply by January 12 and the matter is likely to come up for next hearing only after that.

The petition, filed by Gaurav Kumar and Naman Shrestha, has sought quashing/staying the Bihar Reservation of Vacancies in Posts and Services (for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes) (Amendment) Act, 2023, and the Bihar Reservation (in Enrolment in Educational Institutions) (Amendment) Act, 2023, which increased caste-based reservations in the state from 50% to 65%, in addition to 10% quota for economically weaker sections (EWS) among the upper castes.

On November 9, the Bihar legislature had unanimously passed the two bills, which later received gubernatorial assent.

Meanwhile, as the word about the petition challenging the quota hike spread, a political war of words erupted.

“The turn of events clearly points to BJP’s connection. BJP backed the move to increase quota for Dalits and backward classes in the legislature, but they also say it is not above judicial review and then a petition is filed. It is precisely why the Bihar government has made a request that the new laws be included in the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution to give them immunity from judicial review so that legal wrangles over such progressive initiatives could be prevented,” said Bihar’s parliamentary affairs minister Vijay Kumar Choudhary, who is from chief minister Nitish Kumar’s JD-U.

Choudhary said the design had been exposed at the very first step, as the court refused to stay the laws, saying it would not be proper without analysing it fully and hearing the arguments of both sides. “More people trying to thwart implementation of a progressive law by working from behind the scenes will be exposed in the days to come,” he said.

Senior BJP leader and Rajya Sabha member Sushil Kumar Modi, however, said JD-U was only trying to mislead people through unsubstantiated remarks based on conjectures. “The fact is that it was during the NDA government in Bihar that the decision to conduct a caste survey was taken and BJP extended its full support in Assembly. I am not aware if any petition has been filed and who has done it. JD-U knows who has filed it and they are the one making a noise about it. I strongly believe JD-U and RJD are behind this mischief,” he said.

JD-U chief Rajiv Ranjan alias Lalan Singh also joined the issue. “Who else can do this? They had gone to the SC earlier also to thwart caste survey and they have done it again,” he said.

In the 48-page petition, the question raised is whether the decision to omit data pertaining to caste-wise agricultural land holdings and residential land holdings from the survey results renders the survey incomplete and biased. Also, if increasing reservations to 65% falls within the scope of exceptional circumstances as contemplated by the Constitution bench of the Supreme Court in the Indra Sawhney’s case, wherein it set a ceiling the 50% on caste-based quotas.

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    Arun Kumar is Senior Assistant Editor with Hindustan Times. He has spent two-and-half decades covering Bihar, including politics, educational and social issues.

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