Modi Cabinet Approves Key Amendment To Benefit SC ST

SRINAGAR: The Government of India has approved the promulgation of an ordinance to give reservation benefits to Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) living in Jammu and Kashmir. The proposal got the nod of the union cabinet that Prime Minister Narendra Modi presided over.

The Jammu and Kashmir Reservation (Amendment) Ordinance, 2019, approved by the cabinet will now be issued by the President of India as an ordinance. The amendment is a constitutional amendment.

A spokesman of the Press Information Bureau said the decision provides for amendments in the Jammu and Kashmir Reservation Act, 2004 to bringing persons residing in the areas adjoining International Border within the ambit of reservation at par with persons living in areas adjoining Actual Line of Control (ALoC).

“Once the Ordinance is issued, it would pave the way for bringing persons residing in the areas adjoining International Border within the ambit of Reservation at par with persons living in areas adjoining Actual Line of Control,” the statement issued by PIB said.

The amended act would give 10% reservation for economically weaker sections made applicable in J&K also. This would pave the way for reserving State Government jobs to the youth of J&K who are from economically weaker sections belonging to any religion or caste. It may be recalled that 10% reservation to economically weaker sections was introduced in the rest of the country through the 103rd Constitution Amendment in January 2019. This will be in addition to such reservation available in Government of India jobs also, according to the PIB statement.

“Benefit of promotion to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, which include Gujjars and Bakarwals amongst others, has also been made applicable to the State of J&K. After a long wait of 24 years, the 77th Constitution Amendment of 1995 has now been applied to the State of J&K,” it added.

The PIB statement further said: “People living near the International Border have been brought at par with those living near the Line of Control for reservation in State Government jobs by amending the Jammu and Kashmir Reservation Act, 2004 through an Ordinance. Earlier, the provision of 3% reservation was available only for youth living within 6 kms of LoC in J&K. Now, this provision will be applicable to people living near the international border also. This has been a long-pending demand of the population living near the international border, as they have been facing the brunt of cross border firing in J&K.”

The Jammu and Kashmir Reservation Act, 2004 and The Jammu and Kashmir Reservation Rules, 2005, according to PIB provide for vertical reservation in direct recruitment, promotions and admission in different professional courses to various categories viz. Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (Residents of Backward Area (RBA), Residents of Areas adjoining Actual Line of Control (ALoC) and Weak and Under Privileged Classes (Social Castes) alongwith horizontal reservation to the Ex-Serviceman and Physically Challenged Persons. However, the reservation benefits are not extended to the persons residing in the areas adjoining International Border.

Due to continuous cross border tensions, persons living alongside International Border suffer from socio-economic and educational backwardness. Shelling from across the border often compels these residents to move to safer places and is adversely impacting their education as Educational Institutions remain closed for long periods. Hence, it was felt justifiable to extend the reservation benefits to persons residing in the areas adjoining International Border on the similar lines of the persons living in areas adjoining Actual Line of Control (ALoC).

Interestingly, the information departments of Jammu and Kashmir also issued a statement.

“The Union Cabinet in it’s meeting today approved the following:

1) Amending the JK Reservation Act through an Ordinance to add the words “and International Border” after the word “LAC” so that the benefits of reservation available to residents of LAC are extended to IB. This would benefit residents in Jammu, Samba, Kathua.

2) Through a Presidential Order, apply the 77th Constitutional Amendment 1995 to J&K. This would give the benefit of reservation in promotion to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in government service.

3) Through a Presidential Order, apply the 103rd Constitutional Amendment 2019 to J&K. This would give the benefit of 10% reservation to Economically Weaker Sections among the general category people.

These were recommended by the SAC in it’s meeting last week to the Union Government.

There is no other change in any matter.

These amendments do not affect who is covered as a Permanent Resident. They do not bring West Pakistan Refugees under the scope of permanent residency. In the case of IB, only permanent residents will be able to get the benefits of this extension of reservation benefits as applicable to LOC residents.”

The union cabinet approved the proposal that the state government had submitted. On February 21, the state government spokesman had said:

“The State Administrative Council (SAC under the chairmanship of Governor, Satya Pal Malik has approved the draft amendments in the “Jammu and Kashmir Reservation Act-2014” for extending the benefits of reservation to persons residing in the areas along the International Border (IB).

International Border (IB) covers a population of around 3 lakhs spread over 350 villages in Jammu Division.

The amendment shall meet the long-standing demand of the people residing in the areas adjoining International Border for their overall socio-economic and educational development. The said demand was examined in consultation with J&K State Commission for Backward Classes and it was felt that persons residing in the areas adjoining IB are similarly situated as the persons residing in the areas adjoining Actual Line of Control (ALC), so far as their socio-economic backwardness is concerned and thereby qualify for inclusion within the ambit of reservation at par with persons living in areas adjoining Line of Actual Control. However, as per the recommendations of the J&K State Commission for Backward Classes, the areas falling within 6 Km from the IB shall be covered within the meaning of reservation. List of such villages shall be notified while framing rules once the Ordinance is promulgated.

As per the existing reservation rules, 3 % reservation is admissible to people residing on LoC in direct recruitment. Reservation of 3% is also available to the people residing on the Actual Line of Control (ALC) in professional institutions.

With this amendment, ALC and IB will be considered as one category for purposes of seeking reservation in direct recruitment and in promotions. This will benefit a large number of people residing in the areas adjoining IB to reap the benefits of reservation like other categories.

Following the approval of the proposal by SAC today, the Social Welfare Department will process the draft amendment for further consideration of the Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs for promulgation of the Ordinance by the Competent Authority.”

Omar Abdullah has termed the amendment unconstitutional.

“Article 370 makes concurrence of Government of Jammu and Kashmir a condition precedent for extension of a Constitutional provision not falling under three subjects,” Omar Abdullah wrote on his twitter. “The Government means an elected government. President cannot seek the concurrence of Governor who is a representative or agent of President. Same will apply even where only consent is required.”

He added in a third tweet: “It is for this reason that @JKNC_ will consult eminent lawyers tomorrow to see how best we can challenge this blatantly unconstitutional order in court.”

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