While certain sections in the State have expressed concern that the demand to review the State job reservation policy by giving more quota for the Khasi-Jaintia community may invite judicial intervention, the fact is otherwise.
The Meghalaya reservation policy states that there shall be reservation of 40 per cent for Khasi and Jaintia community, 40 per cent for Garo community, 5 per cent for other backward classes and 15 per cent for the general category.
However, in 2021, the Conrad Sangma government had stated before the Supreme Court that reservation beyond 50 per cent is justified in the State keeping in view its extraordinary circumstances, peculiar features and a tribal population of over 85 per cent.
On March 24, 2021 while arguing before a five-judge Constitution bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan and also comprising justices L Nageswara Rao, S Abdul Nazeer, Hemant Gupta and S Ravindra Bhat, Meghalaya’s Advocate General Amit Kumar said that the 1992 Indra Sawhney judgment which put a cap of 50 per cent on reservations, does not require re-consideration by a larger bench.
Kumar also told the bench that the population of tribals in Meghalaya is 85.9 per cent as per the 2001 census.
Referring to the Indra Sawhney verdict, Kumar argued that there are extraordinary circumstances in Meghalaya and the 50 per cent cap is rendered inapplicable in the State.
Kumar read out one of the paragraphs from the verdict of the Supreme Court in 1992 in the Indra Sawhney case which said: “While 50 per cent shall be the rule, it is necessary not to put out of consideration certain extraordinary situations inherent in the great diversity of this country and the people.”
The Supreme Court in the Indra Sawhney case had said: “It might happen that in far-flung and remote areas the population inhabiting those areas might, on account of their being out of the mainstream of national life and in view of conditions peculiar to and characteristical to them, need to be treated in a different way, some relaxation in this strict rule may become imperative. In doing so, extreme caution is to be exercised and a special case made out”.
Similarly, the Supreme Court in the case of K Krishna Murthy vs Union of India: (2010) Para 66 has observed that: “Admittedly, reservations in excess of 50 per cent do exist in some exceptional cases, when it comes to the domain of political representation. For instance, the Legislative Assemblies of the States of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Sikkim have reservations that are far in excess of the 50 per cent limit. However, such a position is the outcome of exceptional considerations in relation to these areas. Similarly, vertical reservations in excess of 50 per cent are permissible in the composition of local self-government institutions located in the Fifth Schedule Areas.”
As far as review of the Meghalaya reservation policy, the Meghalaya High Court in its verdict passed on July 19, 2017 in the Amar Singh vs State of Meghalaya case has observed that the reservation policy should be reviewed.
“After hearing the facts and circumstances of these instant writ petitions, I am certain that the Reservation Policy has never been reviewed and has been carried on since the year 1972,” Justice S R Sen of the Meghalaya High Court said.
“Hence, I direct the government to follow the appointment policy as discussed above and I leave with the State government and the Central government to review the reservation policy, but it should not be at any cost against the principle of Article 14 and 16 of the Constitution of India,” Justice Sen said in his judgement.
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