Is it much ado about nothing? Or has the vote-bank politics so vitiated our collective mindset that we must look even well-meaning judicial pronouncements with suspicion and distrust? The answer to both the above questions is a firm yes. Because the February 7 judgment of the Supreme Court nowhere suggests that reservations in jobs and promotions for the scheduled castes and tribes are unlawful or unconstitutional. Nowhere.
All that it says is that it is a matter for politicians to decide in state and central legislatures. What percentage of jobs, and promotions in-service ought to be reserved and for whom is a legislative matter, not a judicial matter.
Given the daily complaints by politicians and others that the courts are encroaching on the rights of the executive, the apex court verdict ought to have been welcomed. Instead, it has caused the self-styled champions of SCs, STs to criticise it and blame the incumbent central government for its alleged anti-Dalit bias.
The truth is that it was the Congress Government in Uttarakhand which in 2012 had filled all vacancies for promoted posts of assistant engineers in the Public Works Department without a quota for the SCs/STs.
Upon challenge, the State High Court had reversed the government order, directing it to fill these positions after fixing a quota for the SCs/STs. The State Government appealed against the High Court verdict in the Supreme Court which upheld its position, reversing the HC order.
Now, where in the SC order is there an element of bias against Dalits? But you cannot prevent partisan politicians to exploit everything for partisan ends and even an innocuous court order does not escape mutilation at their hands.
Immediately after the SC order, the Opposition parties reacted sharply, seeing the alleged RSS-BJP link in the SC order, though, as noted above, it was the Congress Government which had done away with the quota in promotions to fill vacancies in the PWD.
Leaders of the Congress Party, believing that the truth will remain hidden, criticised the BJP Government for fielding lawyers who supported the case against the High Court verdict.
The appeal against the HC order was filed by the same Congress Government which had in the first place dispensed with the need to allocate quota in promotions for vacancies in the State PWD.
Even former Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram, a senior lawyer himself, railed against the central government without acknowledging that the shoe was actually on the other foot.
The SC in its verdict suggested that if a state government wants to provide quota in particular category of appointments, it must first collect data to prove that there was inadequate representation for the SCs/STs in those positions.
The ruling party failed to anticipate the mischievous twist the Opposition would give to the apex court judgement. It must now present the facts to the people to expose the false propaganda by its critics.