Debating India

OBC RESERVATION

Arjun: code not violated

Monday 10 April 2006, by PARSAI*Gargi

"No new announcement on quota"

NEW DELHI: Union Human Resource Minister Arjun Singh on Sunday denied the Election Commission’s charge that he had violated the model code of conduct for elections by announcing a proposal for 27 per cent reservation for the Other Backward Classes in Central educational institutions, when the election process was on in five States and a Union Territory. He said a decision on the percentage of reservation of seats was yet to be taken.

In his reply to the explanation sought by the Election Commission through the Cabinet Secretary, Mr. Singh said it was "unfortunate’’ that the Commission had gone by media reports. He said he had responded to specific questions by the press on when the Government planned to announce the decision. "There was no announcement of any concession, much less any other breach of the model code of conduct ... There is no basis even for prima facie view to that effect.

"What is more, it has also been concluded [by EC] that it prima facie violates the model code of conduct without mentioning which provision of the model code the Commission had in view,’’ Mr. Singh said.

In its communication to the Cabinet Secretary on Saturday, the Commission said Mr. Singh’s announcement prima facie amounted to a breach of the model code as it gave new concessions to certain sections of the electorate in Assam, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal and Pondicherry.

Mr. Singh told the Commission that he had refrained from making a comment to the media on the reservation issue precisely on the ground that the election process was under way in some States.

He said it was in reply to a specific question by the media after an NCERT function on April 5 that he made a reference to the Constitutional Amendment and made it clear that necessary follow-up action was under way and a decision would follow after the Assembly elections.

Presidential assent

The Minister said Article 15(5) of the Constitution came into force on January 20 this year when it received the Presidential assent. "Thus, the advancement of socially and educationally backward classes of citizens in matters of admission - including reservation of seats and any other means - is an existing constitutional scheme and by no stretch of imagination a new announcement.’’ "I categorically deny that at any time before or on April 5, 2006, or subsequently, any announcement has been made in respect of any percentage of reservations in favour of any sections of the society or [I] have said anything on the matter which is not already in the public domain or which is inconsistent with the all-party consensus arrived at in Parliament leading to the Constitutional Amendment,’’ he said.

See online : The Hindu

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