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SC glare on Jat decision

- Govt told to ‘produce all files’ on OBC inclusion

New Delhi, April 1: The Supreme Court today asked the government to “produce all files” related to its controversial pre-election decision to include the politically influential Jat community in the list of other backward classes, ignoring the advice of a statutory body.

A bench of Chief Justice P. Sathasivam and Justices Ranjan Gogoi and N.V. Ramana said the matter was “serious” and it would like to “peruse” the files, before fixing April 9 for the next hearing.

Justice Sathasivam said the matter “should be heard by a three-judge bench”, underlining the significance of the issue involved.

The bench, however, did not stay the Centre’s notification, though senior counsel K.K. Venugopal, who appeared for a group of OBC petitioners, slammed the decision as a “fraud on the Constitution”.

The Centre had issued the notification on March 4, a day before the model code of conduct for the upcoming elections kicked in, tying the government’s hands on measures that could be deemed vote-catchers.

On February 28, the National Commission for Backward Classes had rejected the plea to include the Jats in the OBC list, which would make them eligible for 27 per cent quota in jobs and education, apart from other benefits.

In the court, the petitioners contended that the Jats — who have a substantial presence in Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand — were a socially forward caste and their inclusion would deprive those genuinely backward of the benefits of reservation.

Venugopal, who voiced fears that many genuine OBC students would be deprived of admission if the notification was not quashed, said the commission for backward classes had categorically rejected the plea for including the community in the list.

He said the commission’s 150-page report had taken on record various representations. “The commission had passed the order after taking representations and data from both the Jat (community) and OBCs which had opposed their inclusion. A desperate government, for its vote-bank politics, has taken the step to include the community,” the senior counsel said.

“They (the government) are doing it for purchasing votes. It is as good as giving bribes to the voters. It is a fraud that is being played on the Constitution.

“The Jats are now going to take away the benefits that truly belong to the genuine OBCs,” he added.

“It is a serious matter, we want to peruse the file(s) to see whether there was any application of mind. It should be heard by a three-judge bench,” Justice Sathasivam, who was heading the bench, observed.