Calcutta HC annuls OBC certificates

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee labelled it a BJP order and vowed to challenge it in a higher court

Kolkata: In a big setback to the Trinamul Congress (TMC) government during the Lok Sabha Election period, the Calcutta High Court on Wednesday annulled approximately five lakh Other Backward Classes (OBC) certificates issued after 2010 in West Bengal.

The division bench of Justice Tapabrata Chakraborty and Justice Rajasekhar Mantha ruled against several provisions of the West Bengal Backward Classes (Other than Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes) (Reservation of Vacancies in Services and Posts) Act, 2012, although they clarified that it will not affect current employees benefiting from the act and said it will come into effect with prospective effect. A clause in the 2012 Act allowing inclusion of classes for OBC reservation by the state government through notification in the official gazette was also struck down.

Setting aside a provision in the Act of 2012 for distribution of percentage of reservation to the sub-classified classes, the court said, “sub-classified classes listed in two categories, namely OBC-A and OBC-B, are struck down from schedule 1 of the Act of 2012.”

The bench said that the opinion and advice of the Backward Classes Commission is ordinarily binding on the state legislature under provisions of the West Bengal Commission for Backward Classes Act, 1993.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee labelled it a “BJP order” and vowed to challenge it in a higher court. Addressing rallies in Dum Dum, she criticised the BJP for allegedly using judicial orders for political gain, asserting that OBC reservations would continue and accusing the BJP of fomenting conspiracies for electoral advantage.

“Today, I heard a judge passed an order. He was famous. The Prime Minister had recently been talking here about how the minorities will snatch away Tapashili (community included in the OBC quota) reservation. How can this happen? It will lead to a constitutional breakdown. The minorities can never touch the Tapashili or Adivasi reservation.”

“These mischievous people (BJP) get their work done through agencies. They got an order passed today, but I don't accept it. When 26,000 people lost their jobs because of the BJP, I said that I would not accept it. Similarly, I am saying today, I do not accept this order. We won't accept the BJP's order. OBC reservation will continue. Just imagine their audacity! This is a black chapter in the country,” she said.

Banerjee condemned what she perceived as attempts to undermine Constitutional guarantees and expressed her determination to resist any actions she believed threatened minority and OBC rights.

The court directed the Backward Classes Welfare Department of the state, in consultation with the Commission, to place a report before the legislature with recommendations for inclusion of new classes or for exclusion of remaining classes in the state list of OBCs.

Concurring with the judgment penned by Justice Mantha, Justice Chakraborty observed, “The concept of equality of opportunity in public employment concerns an individual, whether that individual belongs to the general category or backward class.”

He said, “The society at large has a stake in proper application of the yardsticks pertaining to reservation.”

Strict adherence to the rule of law is to be ensured and the same cannot be allowed to be flouted in the hands of the executives, he said.

A prayer by the state for a stay of the order was rejected by the bench.

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