Karnataka to hike SC/ST quota through Constitutional amendment

Bengaluru: In a major decision ahead of the Assembly polls a few months away, the BJP government in Karnataka on Friday decided to increase the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (SC/STs) quota in the state, by seeking a Constitutional amendment.

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The decision has been taken by the government on the basis of the report of Justice H N Nagamohan Das Commission, which has recommended hiking the quota for SCs from 15 percent to 17 percent and for STs from 3 percent to 7 percent.

Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai made an announcement to this effect after chairing an all-party meeting that was attended by Congress and JD(S) leaders.

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Noting that it was a “long-standing and just demand” from the communities that the reservation should be based on population, he said, “The Nagamohan Das Commission’s recommendations were discussed at the all party meeting today and has been approved. Before that it was discussed within our party (BJP) where it was decided to keep up our commitment for the welfare of SC/STs.”

The Cabinet meeting will be convened on Saturday itself, where a formal decision will be taken in this connection, he added.

The Bommai government was under tremendous pressure from SC/ST lawmakers to implement the commission’s report. Also, the ‘Valmiki Gurupeetha’ seer Prasannananda Swami has been on a hunger strike demanding the ST quota hike.

The opposition parties, especially the Congress had been attacking the government for the delay in implementation.

The commission had given its recommendations to the government in July 2020.

However, following a couple of judgements from the Supreme court regarding reservation, the government had constituted a committee under Justice Subhash B Adi on implementation of the recommendations as per law and Constitution, which too submitted its report subsequently.

After studying both the reports, the government wanted to take everyone into confidence before arriving at any decision on a matter relating to law and Constitution, hence the all party meeting was called today, Bommai said.

At present, Karnataka provides 32 percent reservation for OBCs, 15 percent for SCs and 3 percent for STs, totalling to 50 percent, and the only way before Karnataka to hike the SC/ST quota is via the Schedule 9 route.

Noting that if the reservation exceeds 50 percent, then courts will take exception, Law Minister J C Madhuswamy said there is a SC decision saying reservation in the states should not exceed 50 percent, but some states have exceeded the ceiling and there is a provision to do it under special circumstances.

We will introduce it under Schedule 9, because it has judicial immunity. Tamil Nadu did it under Schedule 9 to increase reservation to 69 percent. We will recommend to the Union government to amend the Constitution, he added.

Responding to a question, the Minister said hiking the SC/ST quota and exceeding 50 percent would eat into the general category space to some extent”.

Reservation in Karnataka is already on the borderline and it will be difficult to rejig quotas within the 50 percent, he said. “If we have to do it, we will have to reduce the OBC quota by six percentage points, which nobody will tolerate. So, to exceed 50 percent, it must be done via Schedule 9.”

Leader of Opposition in the assembly, Siddaramaiah, also another former CM and JD(S) leader H D Kumaraswamy attended the all party meet.

The decision is also being seen by some with a political prism with Assembly elections due in about six months.

Siddaramaiah urged the Centre to promulgate an ordinance to give effect to the quota hike for SC/STs following the state’s recommendation, if it truly cares for these communities.

Pointing to the increase in the aspirations of all communities and religions, the Chief Minister said there is a feeling that within the SCs/STs that justice has not been done to many, and in the wake of this, it has been decided to study the reports of all the commissions to make a good decision.

“In the coming days, decisions regarding internal reservation among the SCs/STs will be taken in due consultation with experts and leaders of all parties, to ensure no injustice is done to the society. The government will also take a suitable decision on reservation demands for backward classes on the basis of reports and do justice for those people too,” he said.

Bommai said with today’s decision to increase SC/ST quota, the quantum of reservation for any community that exists now, will not be reduced. There is a total 50 percent reservation in the State for various communities, and the decision taken today is above that 50 percent quota, which has been recommended by Justice Nagamohan Das Committee.

“It has already been decided to give 10 percent reservation for the economically weaker sections, who do not have reservation as per law, but this has been challenged in the Supreme Court and a verdict is awaited,” he recalled and said once the order is passed it will be implemented too and will see to it that there is no injustice to anyone.

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