The Haryana government moved the Supreme Court in opposition to the Punjab and Haryana High Court order that stayed the state’s law providing for 75 per cent quota to local people in private sector jobs.
A Bench presided over by CJI NV Ramana agreed to take up the matter on February 7 after Solicitor General Tushar Mehta sought for urgent listing.
The ML Khattar government approached the apex court after Punjab and Haryana High Court on Thursday stayed the Haryana State Employment of Local Candidates Act, 2020, and admitted a plea challenging its validity.
In the petition, Mehta argued that the High Court passed the stay order in just one and a half minutes. The order was with respect to a petition filed by the Faridabad Industries Association and other petitioners.
The law, which was notified in November 2021, provides 75 per cent reservations for local youth in private sector jobs that offered a monthly salary of less than Rs 30,000 from January 15, 2022.
According to the petitioners challenging the law, the Act was against the provisions of the Constitution and ran counter to the basic tenets of meritocracy, one of the cornerstones for businesses to remain competitive and thriving.
The petitioners averred that the Haryana government’s ‘Sons of Soil’ policy to create reservation in private sector was an infringement of the constitutional rights of the employers.
In their plea, the petitioners contended that private sector jobs are purely based on skills and analytical blend of mind of the employees who have a fundamental right accorded to them by the Constitution to work in any part of the country. By depriving them of employment through the agency of reservation, the Haryana government was infringing upon their constitutional rights, they submitted.
Supreme Court had questioned for how long the reservations would continue validity
The Supreme Court had often rapped state governments for coming up with populist announcements of reservations in order to lure voters. Earlier last year, the top court had raised a significant question on the controversial issue of reservation policies in the country and sought to know for how long reservations in jobs and education could continue.
Hearing the petitions challenging the validity of the Maharashtra State Reservation for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act, which had extended a 16% reservation for the Maratha community, the Supreme Court posed pertinent questions on the reservation systems that prevail in the country currently.
The apex bench had then sought to know whether the right to equality under Article 14 of the Constitution would be affected if they remove the 50% limit on the reservation and whether it would lead to a “resultant inequality”.
“If there is no 50% limit, what is the concept of Article 14 then? What would happen to the resultant inequality, and for how many generations will this continue?” the bench asked Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, who urged the Supreme Court to reconsider the 50% cap imposed by the Indira Sawhney judgment.
A five-judge bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, L Nageswara Rao, S Abdul Nazeer, Hemant Gupta and S. Ravindra Bhat is hearing a batch of petitions challenging the Constitutionality of the Maharashtra State Reservation For Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) that provides 16% extra reservations for Maratha community.
The perils associated with Haryana govt’s move to introduce reservations in private sector
Not only is the Haryana government’s law mandating reservations in private sector constitutionally untenable, it also has the potential to stifle the growth of the state and in turn, the country. Policymakers have long argued that reservations need to be gradually phased out for the country to reach its true potential. Therefore, the expansion of reservations, as attempted by the Haryana government, in private sector could prove catastrophic for the country’s overall growth potential.
Additionally, the law by Haryana government is also dangerous in the sense that it advocates reservations in the private sector, something that could spell doom for a sector in which meritocracy and skills takes precedence over everything else. It is a bitter reality that talent and meritocracy are compromised in reservation. Private sector is a profit making enterprise but introduction of reservations in them could turn them into laggards similar to government-controlled organisations, where profitability is the least of the concerns.
It would inevitably breed mediocrity and kill competition as less qualified people by the virtue of their domicile would be entitled to jobs in private sector organisations as compared to much-more qualified and deserving candidates from other states. This would undoubtedly have a negative impact on private sector companies in the long run, hobbling both their ambitions and growth.
If such a law is passed, private organisations might even contemplate of moving out of Haryana in order to do away with the mandate of 75 per cent quota for locals. At present, Gurgaon, a vibrant city of Haryana with swanky apartments and multi-national corporate companies, is a hub for bright minds from across the country. But if Haryana government manages to get sanction from the Supreme Court, Gurgaon might soon turn into a ghost city, with talented people shifting to places that value their skills and provides them with better and adequate job opportunities.
Also, the law that mandates private sector companies to source 75 per cent of their human resource requirements locally would set a dangerous precedent for other states to follow. Once the law gets sanction from the Supreme Court, other states won’t waste time in legislating similar Acts within their jurisdiction in the name of securing employment for their citizens. In such a scenario, people will no longer have an incentive to travel to other states in search of employment. The interaction between people from varying backgrounds and cultures which enriches one’s experience would all but stop. It could also engender feelings of resentment among citizens of one state for domiciles of other, spurring hostilities and raising threats of the balkanisation of the country.
Instead of pursuing the sanction of Supreme Court for its reservation law, the Haryana government should instead invest in skilling the youth and providing better educational opportunities to them so that they manage to get jobs on the basis of merit and not rely on reservations for their employment. Such endeavours would not only open youth to better income and job prospects but they would also help the state in achieving their developmental and growth objectives.