Jolt for BJP-JJP govt as HC nixes law on private job quota

The Punjab and Haryana High Court’s decision to quash Haryana’s law mandating 75% quota in jobs for the state domiciles in the private sector, has come as a major setback to the ruling BJP-JJP combine government ahead of 2024 Parliamentary and state assembly polls, writes Rajesh Moudgil

On November 17 came the Punjab and Haryana High Court order setting aside Haryana’s law which mandated 75% reservation of jobs in the private sector for the domiciles of Haryana, deeming it “unconstitutional”.

This order is being seen as a jolt for the state’s ruling BJP-JJP coalition government as it was one of the key poll promises made by the Jannayak Janta Party (JJP) – a junior partner in ruling BJP-JJP combine government – ahead of 2024 parliamentary and state assembly elections.

For the record, the BJP which had come to power with a majority in 2014 with 47 seats out of  total 90, could garner 41 seats post 2019 polls. It thus needed the support of JJP which had 10 MLAs as well as 7 independent candidates and an MLA of Haryana Lokhit Party (HLP). While Congress is the principal opposition party with 30 members, the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) has only one MLA.

The BJP-JJP coalition government had notified the said law in November, 2021, which provided a 75% quota for the local youth in the private sector jobs with a monthly salary of less than Rs 30,000 from January 15, 2022. This Haryana State Employment of Local Candidates Act, 2020, was passed by Haryana assembly on March 2, 2021, before being approved by the governor. The Act was applicable to employers of the private sector companies, societies, trusts and firms and any person who employs 10 or more persons on salary, wages or other remunerations, for manufacturing, carrying on business or rendering any service in Haryana.

 The order of the bench of Justice Gurmeet Singh Sandhawalia and Justice Harpreet Kaur Jeewan, quashing the state government’s jobs quota law, came on a petition filed by various industries associations and other petitioners. The petitioners challenged the said quota stating that the impugned Act was against the provisions of the Constitution and the basic principles of meritocracy that acted as the foundation for businesses to grow and remain competitive. They further held that the private sector jobs were purely based on the skills and analytical blend of mind of the employees who were citizens of India having constitutional rights on the basis of their education to have jobs anywhere in India.

In its 83-page judgement, the Bench opined that the state overstepped its authority by legislating on private employment. It held that it was beyond the state’s purview to legislate on the issue and restrict the private employer from recruiting people from the open market for the category of employees receiving less than Rs 30,000 per month. It also made it clear that there was a bar which mandated under the Constitution regarding discriminating to citizens relating to employment on the basis of their places of birth and residence and to make them ineligible or discriminated against in respect of employment to the state.

Will move SC: Dushyant

However, even though representatives of industries and other business houses hailed the High Court verdict setting aside the 75% job quota for locals in the private sector, the JJP leader and deputy chief minister Dushyant Chautala said that the government would now approach the Supreme Court.

He told newspersons that the state government would move the top court against the High Court order. He held that the state government’s intention was to give employment to local youth and provide skilled workers to the private sector.

He held that the JJP wanted to generate employment at the local level as it would have benefited the industry as well. The industries would not have to pay transportation and accommodation costs in case local skilled workers were available, he said, and added that it was also noticed that the industries suffered when the workforce belonging to other parts of the country often took long leave to visit their native places.

Dushyant also pointed out that the High Court had stayed the Act in February 2022 but the same was set aside by the apex court after the state government appealed against it.

Congress tears into BJP-JJP govt

Meanwhile, former chief minister and leader of the Opposition, Bhupender Singh Hooda lashed out at the BJP-JJP government alleging that it was playing not only with the present, but also the future of Haryana by continuously carrying out recruitment scams and increasing unemployment.

“The recruitment scams and policies of the government are being exposed again and again in the courts. The latest example of this is the cancellation of veterinary surgeon recruitment and 75 percent reservation. BJP-JJP had made changes in the rules of Haryana Domicile, making 75 percent reservation zero. This was just a phrase used among the public to gain political mileage,” he said.

The issue of changing the domicile from 15 to 5 years was also raised in the state Assembly and the 75% reservation now couldn’t even stand in court, and this was only brought with the intention to mislead the people of Haryana, he said.

Hooda said that the BJP-JJP’s drama of providing 75% reservation was also exposed in the court. “The court struck down the law, implemented by the government without any study. If this government was serious about providing employment to Haryana youth, then the first thing it would have done was to protect local youth in government recruitments, but on the contrary, in order to provide maximum jobs to the people of other states, BJP-JJP relaxed the rules of Haryana domicile,” he said.