Karnataka terms as 'beacon' SC's decision to examine if judgment on 50 per cent cap should be re-looked

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Bengaluru, Mar 10 (PTI) Under pressure from various communities to revise the existing reservation, the Karnataka government on Wednesday described as 'beacon', the Supreme Court's decision to examine whether its judgment on 50 per cent reservation cap should be re-looked.

Indicating it was inevitable that the 50 per cent cap would be breached if demands are to be fulfilled, it said the state, after due consultations, will present its views before the apex court, which has sought responses from states whether legislatures were competent to declare a particular caste to be socially and educationally backward for grant of quota.

'In a case relating to Maratha reservation, the Supreme Court's constitution bench has sought views from all the states, it is kind of a beacon for us in resolving these issues...the state's view will be presented before the Supreme Court after consulting everyone,' Law and Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai said.

He was replying to an issue raised by BJP MLA Basanagouda Patil Yatnal who demanded that the Panchamasali Lingayat community be considered under Category 2A of of OBC.

Unless and until the court realises the importance of other communities who are really backward to be considered as backward, it cannot be done and such is the situation, the minister said.

'As Indra Sawhney judgment is a judgment by a nine-member bench, to supersede it a full constitution bench has to look into it..' he added.

The apex court sought responses from states on Monday on a question of 'seminal importance' whether legislatures were competent to declare a particular caste to be socially and educationally backward for grant of quota.

The court had also said it would also hear arguments on the issue of whether the landmark 1992 judgment in the Indira Sahwney case -- also known as the Mandal verdict, which caps the quota at 50 per cent -- should be re-looked and referred to a larger bench.

The minister noted Karnataka even before the Indra Sawhney judgment or Mandal Commission report has provided for reservation. Despite this, there is demand from various committees to revise existing reservation including, by the Panchamasali community to be included in category 2A of OBC reservation matrix.

These communities have given data on backwardness, lesser jobs, dependence on agriculture to substantiate their demand to the government and the Backward Classes Commission, he said.

Fragmentation of land holding coupled with increase in population has led to people not able to sustain economically, leading to such demands by various communities, the minister pointed out.

'To provide them justice, it has to be done in a constitutional and legal framework, following a set of procedures...now as demands by various communities have come together, resolving it will lead to exceeding 50 per cent.' 'If it crosses 50 per cent to define the special criteria under which it is done, it has been decided to constitute a three member high-level committee,' he added.

Karnataka at present provides 15 per cent reservation for SCs, 3 per cent for STs and 32 per cent for the other backward classes (OBC), which adds up to 50 per cent.

Facing demands for revision of the existing quota from various communities, led by seers or pontiffs, who have held protests, the state cabinet on March 3 decided to set up a three member high-level committee headed by a retired High Court Judge to look into demands and advise the government.

As Leader of Opposition Siddaramaiah noted that a high level committee cannot do the job, Bommai said the government will consult constitutional experts while forming it, and the process of consultation was already on.

The government's overall intention is that there should not be any clash between the communities, to protect the existing reservation, and those who will be included under reservation should stand the scrutiny of the courts while being constitutional and legal, he said.

Further promising to look into the demands of Panchamasalis and various communities after getting the reports, Bommai said the government was committed to providing just reservation to all communities in accordance with their population, also social and economic situation, within the legal and constitutional framework.

The Veerashaiva-Lingayats are demanding OBC status under the central list, whereas the sub-sect of the community Panchamasali Lingayats wants to be put under Category 2A in the state quota.

The other dominant Vokkaliga community has decided to seek enhancement of reservation and wants all Vokkaliga sub-sects to be included under OBC.

On the other hand, while the backward Kuruba community is seeking ST tag, the Valmiki community wants ST quota to be hiked from 3 per cent to 7.5 per cent.

Not convinced by the Law Minister's response, Yatnal said Panchamsalis are seeking reservation within the 50 per cent limit, that too for education and employment, and not political reservation.

Terming the constitution of the committee under a retired High Court Judge as a trick to buy time, he sought clarity from the Chief Minister as to how long will it take for the community to be considered under 2A or to spell it out if it cannot be done.

'I want clarity from the Chief Minister (who was not present in the House) .. or else I will stage protest (in the assembly),' he added.

A known critic of Chief Minister, Yatnal earlier in the day demanded that the issue be taken up immediately.

Yatnal hit out at Yediyurappa by reminding that he became CM because of the support of the Panchamasali community and even threatened to stage a protest in the House if not allowed to raise the matter.

'CM had promised to me yesterday that he will positively respond on demand by Panchamasalis, today he is missing from the House...let him make his stand clear,' he said, even as another BJP MLA M P Renukacharya objected to his comments.

Panchamasalis wants to be included in category 2A (15 per cent) of OBC reservation matrix. They are currently included under 3B (5 per cent).PTI KSU BN BN