New Delhi: The Bihar cabinet on Tuesday approved a 50% reservation for backward classes in judiciary.
The decision comes after a Supreme Court directive asking the government to complete the process before 1 January, owing to vacancies for 406 junior civil judges in Bihar .
According to The Telegraph, the notification officially implementing the same will be made likely on Wednesday.
The move raises multiple issues—of whether this is for better electoral optics, the looming issue of pendency and vacancies in courts, sensitization in the judiciary and in some way, preempting the Centre’s plans of bringing an all India judicial service with reservation for lower court judges.
The Bihar government has attempted to bring this change many times since 1991.
“The state government has decided to provide 50% reservation in both subordinate and superior judicial services. Altogether, 21% seats will be reserved for EBCs, 16% for SCs, 12% for Other Backward Castes (OBC) and 1% for STs. The remaining 50% seats will be filled on open merit system,” said D. S. Gangwar Bihar principal secretary, general administration.
“It is a historic decision because the state government was trying to provide 50 per cent reservation in subordinate and superior judicial services for the last 25 years. Its moves were rejected by Patna High Court at least eight to 10 times in this period,” he added, as reported by The Telegraph.
The latest decision comes after a prolonged litigation after the Patna high court quashed the Bihar government’s notification allowing reservation in the lower judiciary. The Supreme Court, while deciding these appeals, on 29 September, said that it was the Bihar government’s policy decision to bring reservation in the lower judiciary, but consultation with the high court was necessary.
According to the order, the government had failed to hold sufficient consultation with the high court, leading to them quashing the decision. The Supreme Court asked the government to complete the process of appointments by 30 June 2017, owing to huge vacancies.
The decision of the Bihar government will have political implications as this is a plan the Centre is mulling as well. Senior leaders of the Janata Dal (United) or JD(U) have defended the move saying that it is the ‘need of the hour’ and should not be seen from a prism of populist annoucement.
“It has been a long term issue for us as far as the party goes. We are in the favour of reservations for those who need it. It is implementation of hte policy which the party has been thinking for a long time and has been under consideration. The representation of SC ST members in judiciary is very low. When UPSC (Union Public Services Commission) and other services have reservation, why is it wrong if state government is coming up for such a provision in judiciary?” Ajay Alok, party spokesperson, told Mint.
“This announcement should not be seen from a point of view of electoral polity because if that was our view, we would have done it before state polls last year. We genuinely believe in this policy and it is very much needed,” he added.
A report by the National Commission for Scheduled Castes on the reservation in judiciary has even recommended reservation in the higher judiciary.
Political analysts, however, are not impressed with the decision and feel that it could set a wrong precedent for other sectors too.
“It is sad that even 70 years after independence, reservation still remains a political ploy to dupe people. Such moves are usually politically motivated and the evidence can be seen in the fact that the benefits never reach the target audience. What is the use of providing reservation without properly educating these people? Do we want bad doctors, lawyers, engineers in our country,?” said Vijay Kumar, a Bihar-based political analyst.