The supporters of Jat quota in Haryana say that the state government must make the legislation to provide reservation to them in government jobs and admissions in government institutions a part of the Constitution’s Ninth Schedule. Even Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar has agreed to do so by prevailing upon the Central government once the Punjab and Haryana High Court lifts the stay order on the implementation of Jat quota policy in the state. The Ninth Schedule card is being played to convince quota supporters that once this is done, no law of land including judiciary can deprive them of quota benefits..
It is a wonderful proposition which has been floated by different stakeholders including die-hard supporters of quota. They seem to be convinced over the fact that the Supreme Court can stay a legislation made by the Parliament, but cannot do anything if the same legislation is put in the Constitution’s Ninth Schedule, which was created through first amendment to the Constitution by then Central government headed by Prime Minister Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru on May 10, 1951 to provide protective umbrella to judicial decisions and pronouncements especially about the chapter on fundamental rights.
The Ninth Schedule was added to the Constitution along with the Article 31-B with a view to providing a ‘protective umbrella’ to land reforms laws so that these cannot be challenged in courts on the ground of violation of fundamental rights. Article 13(2) of the Constitution says that the state shall not make any law inconsistent with the fundamental rights. Article 31-B saves conflict of laws with fundamental rights by giving validation based on ‘fictional immunity’ that laws enacted under it and placed in the Ninth Schedule are immune to challenge in a court of law even if such a law violates fundamental rights.
When the entire Constitution can be a subject of review and amendments, then why not the Ninth Schedule, remains a million dollar question for the all sensible people? In I R Coelho versus state of Tamil Nadu, various laws placed in the Ninth Schedule were challenged. A nine-judge constitution bench delivered its verdict on the issue in January 2007, which upheld the validity of Article 31-B and the Parliament’s power to place a particular law in the Ninth Schedule, but said that laws placed in the Ninth Schedule are open to judicial scrutiny and that such laws do not enjoy a blanket protection. This means that even if a law is placed in the Ninth Schedule the same may not be upheld by the judiciary.
Since judiciary and legislature are equally important wings of democracy, there is no point in having Constitutional provision to protect any laws from judicial scrutiny. We cannot undermine the rulebook like this for ages to come. The misuse of Ninth Schedule as a dumping ground of laws will only weaken the country’s democratic ethos. The Parliament is certainly remains the most important tool in democracy, but a way out of the cul-de-sac cannot remain the sole of domain of Parliament or state assembly. One must not forget the fact that the founding fathers of the Constitution had public welfare and good governance uppermost in their minds, while finalising the country’s most sacrosanct document.
Now vote bank politics, large-scale corruption and criminalisation of politics are being allowed to dilute the significance of the Constitution either overtly or covertly, an ominous trend which must be checked under any circumstances. We the people must understand now that we are living in a different age, where the public urge for transparency and honesty is getting stronger day by day.
The government of Haryana has given quota to Jats, but the decision has been held back by the high court, which must be fought in the corridors of court only. In democracy everybody has the right to agitate, but no one has the right to hurt, kill and destroy private or public properties to press for his demand-whether logical or illogical.