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Supreme Court Seeks Views On It Hearing Petitions Pending In HCs Against State Laws Giving Domicile Job Quota

Sohini Chowdhury
11 Feb 2022 5:58 AM GMT
Supreme Court Seeks Views On It Hearing Petitions Pending In HCs Against State Laws Giving Domicile Job Quota
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The Supreme Court on Friday sought views regarding it transferring to itself the matters pending in different High Courts in relation to the validity of laws providing job quotas for domiciles.A bench comprising Justice L Nageswara Rao and BR Gavai was hearing the special leave petition filed by the State of Haryana against the order passed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court on February 3...

The Supreme Court on Friday sought views regarding it transferring to itself the matters pending in different High Courts in relation to the validity of laws providing job quotas for domiciles.

A bench comprising Justice L Nageswara Rao and BR Gavai was hearing the special leave petition filed by the State of Haryana against the order passed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court on February 3 to stay the Haryana law which provided 75% reservation for local people in private sector.

The bench pointed out that similar laws passed by Andhra Pradesh and Jharkhand have been challenged before High Courts and asked if all those matters could be transferred to Supreme Court to decide the larger issue.

When the matter was taken, Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta, appearing for the State of Haryana, submitted that by an unreasoned order, a statute has been stayed, after hearing him for only 90 seconds.

"At the outset, I would like to proceed by saying that this order was passed after 90 seconds given for hearing. No findings. It is unreasoned order staying a statute", SG submitted. The SG submitted that it is a settled position of law that a statute cannot be stayed.  The SG pointed out that the quota is limited to jobs having salaries of less than Rs 30,000 per month. "75% quota is given in the lower rung because there is rampant lack of opportunities for local people", he submitted.

Justice L Nageswara Rao pointed out that he has read from a newspaper the states of Andhra Pradesh and Jharkhand have also passed similar laws providing for domicile reservation which have been challenged before the High Courts.

"If the matters are before other High Courts, whether we can hear the larger issue calling for the papers from High Courts, you can tell us", Justice Rao sought the views of Solicitor General and Senior Advocates Dushyant Dave and Mukul Rohatgi, who were appearing for the respondents, regarding Supreme Court hearing the issues.

While Dave agreed that the Supreme Court can hear after transferring the matters, Rohatgi submitted that he would need time to "ponder over" after consulting with the clients.

"You have come up against an interim order. We may ask the HC to decide after hearing the parties", Justice Rao told the Solicitor General.

"Only one request that the stay is midway. It was already implemented. Kindly have it on Monday", the SG requested.

The bench adjourned the hearing to Monday asking the parties to ascertain the status of similar issues pending in other High Courts.

 

The stay on the law came from the Bench of Justice Ajay Tewari and Justice Pankaj Jain on a Writ petition challenging the vires of the Haryana State Employment of Local Candidates Act 2020.

After hearing Tushar Mehta, Solicitor General of India on behalf of the State of Haryana, the High Court admitted the Writ Petitions and granted a stay on the operation of the Act.

The plea had been moved last month by the Faridabad Industries Association (FIA) before the Punjab and Haryana High Court. Admitting the plea, the Court also issued a notice to the state government
It may be noted that the Haryana State Employment of Local Candidates Act 2020, which was notified on November 6, 2021, seeks to provide 75 percent reservation for local candidates in private sector jobs that offer a salary of less than Rs 30,000 a month. The Act is scheduled to come into effect on January 15, 2022.

The Law applies to all Companies, Societies, Trusts, Limited Liability Partnership Firms, Partnership Firms, and any person employing ten or more persons, but excludes the Central Government or the State Government, or any organization owned by them.

The plea before the Court

The petition has been filed by FIA, a premier industries association of North India, formed in 1952 by a group of enterprising industrialists. It challenges the Act for being unconstitutional and violating Articles 14, 15, and 19 of the Constitution of India. The petition also seeks a stay on the implementation of the Act until it is finally decided.

 The plea claims that the Act is unconstitutional on account of being excessively vague, arbitrary, and inter alia granting overly broad discretion to the Authorised Officers appointed therein, and as such provides an independent ground for striking down the Act as unconstitutional.

Averring that the Act is applicable to all diverse nature of employment, is not based upon intelligible differentia and rational classification and hence, is ultra vires, the plea further adds thus:

"The Act purports to effectively provide for reservation in private employment and represents an unprecedented intrusion by the government into the fundamental rights of private employers to carry out their business and trade, as provided under Article 19 and the restrictions being places upon such a right are not reasonable but are arbitrary, capricious, excessive and uncalled for."

Importantly, the plea argues that the Law fails to take into account practical commercial concerns and avers that the domicile criteria provided in the Act goes on to violate the mandate of Article 16 (2) of the Constitution which provides that no citizen shall be ineligible for or discriminated against in respect of employment on the ground only of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, residence or any of them.

In addition to the above, the plea states that the Act is contrary to the very idea of common citizenship for the Union of India and that it fails to uphold the federal structure of the Union of India which is part of the basic structure of the Constitution of India.

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