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May 23, 2024

Calcutta HC Nullifies All OBC Certificates Issued Post-2010 in West Bengal

In a landmark ruling, the Calcutta High Court has invalidated all Other Backward Classes (OBC) certificates issued in West Bengal since 2010. This judgment, delivered by a panel comprising Justice Tapabrata Chakraborty and Justice Rajasekhar Mantha, declared several classes identified as OBC under a 2012 West Bengal Act for reservation in state services and posts as illegal. The verdict significantly impacts the certificates distributed during the Trinamool Congress administration led by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who has been in power since 2011.

The court’s decision emerged from a public interest litigation (PIL) that questioned the methodology used by the state in issuing OBC certificates. The bench’s directive not only quashes executive orders classifying 42 classes between March 5, 2010, and May 11, 2012, but also does so with prospective effect, citing the illegality of the reports that recommended such classifications.

However, the court has provided a safeguard for those already benefiting from the reservations. It clarified that the services of individuals from the invalidated classes, who are currently employed, have availed of reservation benefits, or have succeeded in any state selection processes, will not be affected by this ruling.

In response to the ruling, the court underscored the importance of the Backward Classes Commission’s opinion and advice as typically binding on the state legislature under the National Commission for Backward Classes Act, 1993. Consequently, it instructed the Backward Classes Welfare Department to consult the Commission to formulate a new report. This report should be submitted to the legislature, detailing recommendations for including new classes or excluding certain classes from the state’s OBC list.

Mamata Banerjee Denounces the Verdict

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee vehemently opposed the court’s decision, framing it as a politically motivated move orchestrated by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). She asserted that the OBC reservation quota introduced by her government would persist, emphasizing that the bill was meticulously drafted following an extensive house-to-house survey and subsequently passed by both the cabinet and the Assembly.

Banerjee accused the BJP of leveraging central agencies to thwart the implementation of West Bengal’s OBC reservation policy, questioning, “How can the saffron party exhibit such audacity?” She insisted that the state government’s efforts to ensure reservation for OBCs were genuine and transparent, dismissing the court’s ruling as part of a larger conspiracy to undermine her administration.

Implications of the Ruling

The Calcutta High Court’s verdict is poised to have significant ramifications for the state’s reservation policy and its political landscape. For the individuals who received OBC certificates post-2010, the decision introduces uncertainty and potential upheaval. Moreover, the judgment puts a spotlight on the administrative processes and the role of the Backward Classes Commission in ensuring fair and legal classification of OBCs.

The ruling also sets the stage for heightened political conflict between the Trinamool Congress and the BJP, with accusations and counter-accusations likely to intensify. As the state government moves forward to consult the Backward Classes Commission and possibly reframe its OBC list, the political and social discourse around reservation policies in West Bengal will remain charged and contentious.

Moving Forward

The next steps for the West Bengal government will involve meticulous consultation with the Backward Classes Commission to reassess and potentially reclassify the OBC categories. This process will be crucial in ensuring that the state’s reservation policy aligns with legal standards while addressing the needs and rights of backward classes. As political tensions mount, the focus will also be on maintaining transparency and fairness in the state’s approach to reservations, ensuring that the benefits reach the intended recipients without legal or political hindrances.

Jhumpa Lahiri

Jhumpa Lahiri

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