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'For Political Gains': Calcutta HC Cancels OBC Certificates to 5 Lakh, CM Mamata Rejects Order

The court said that the state commission's selection of 77 classes of Muslims as backward is 'an affront to the Muslim community as a whole.'
Calcutta high court. Photo: Sujay25/Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0

New Delhi: The Calcutta high court has struck down the Other Backward Class status granted to several communities in Bengal since 2010. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee has said that she “rejects the order”.

PTI has reported that the number of people affected could be around five lakh.

In its order on May 22, the court said that reservations for these classes in services and posts in the state are illegal. However, the court has clarified that those who had got jobs as a result of OBC certificates issued to them after 2010 would not be affected by the order.

A division bench of Justices Tapabrata Chakraborty and Rajasekhar Mantha delivered the verdict in a plea challenging the process of granting OBC certificates in the state under the West Bengal Backward Classes (Other than Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes) (Reservation of Vacancies in Services and Posts) Act, 2012, according to LiveLaw.

The bench has struck down portions of the Act, including Section 16 (“since it empowers the State executive to amend any schedule of the Act of 2012 including Schedule I”) along with the second part of Section 2(h), and Section 5(a) which distributed reservation percentages of 10% and 7% to the sub-classified categories.

Consequently, the 37 classes included in the exercise of Section 16 by the state executive were struck out from Schedule I of the Act and the sub-classified categories OBC-A and OBC-B were removed.

‘Haste, deficiencies’

The court noted that a class is declared “OBC not only because it is backward, based on scientific and identifiable data, but also on the basis of such class being inadequately represented in the services under the State.”

This inadequacy, the court observed, needs to be assessed with attention to the population as a whole and other unreserved classes as well.

“There are deficiencies galore in the said pro forma,” the court said on the state commission’s process.

While the Left front government was in power in 2010, in 2011, the Trinamool Congress government took over. Thus, almost all OBC certificates cancelled through this order came during Mamata Banerjee’s rule in the state.

The court highlighted the commission’s “undue haste” in acting to make “recommendations for the classification of the 77 classes to make the public announcement of the then Chief Minister a reality.”

‘Affront to community’

The recommendations for sub-classification of OBCs by the state were made upon bypassing the state commission, the court also said, according to LiveLaw. It added that although the commission could not recommend a community for reservation solely based on religion, 41 out of the 42 classes that were recommended for reservation in 2010 alone, belonged to the Muslim community.

The court also said, LiveLaw further reported, that the commission’s selection of 77 classes of Muslims as backward is “an affront to the Muslim community as a whole” and raises suspicion that the “community has been treated as a commodity for political ends.”

“This is clear from the chain of events that led to the classification of the 77 Classes as OBCs and their inclusion to be treated as a vote bank. Identification of the classes in the aid community as OBCs for electoral gains would leave them at the mercy of the concerned political establishment and may defeat and deny other rights,” the court said.

The Union government had the included 37 classes under the Central OBC list during 2010-2011.

Meanwhile, chief minister Mamata Banerjee has says that she will not accept the ruling and move a higher court if necessary. “The reservation system will continue,” she said. Her political opponent in the Bharatiya Janata Party and Union home minister Amit Shah has accused the Bengal government of “appeasement.”

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