17/03/2015 1:23 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

Supreme Court Says No To Quota For Jats

Hindustan Times via Getty Images
NEW DELHI, INDIA - MARCH 18: Jats from various states sitting on Dharna to press for their demand for the OBC status for the Jat community and reservations in Government jobs at Jantar Mantar on March 18, 2013 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Sushil Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

NEW DELHI — The Supreme Court today said that people of the Jat caste will not receive reservations, and quashed the previous government's decision to include this group in the backward castes category.

This is a landmark judgement, because the court said that belonging to a lower caste cannot be the sole criteria to decide whether they are backward. "Backwardness has to be social backwardness and not educational or economic backwardness," the bench said.

Including Jats had been perceived as a populist move, against the recommendations of a panel which had advised against it. Jats were included in the 'Other Backward Castes' or OBC category on March 4 last year, one day before the announcement of general elections. OBCs have 27 percent quota in government educational institutions and in jobs.

The ruling National Democratic Alliance government had supported the decision and refuted allegations that it was done to gain more votes from the community in the general elections. It could have overturned the UPA government's move, but would have had to deal with large-scale protests by Jats as had happened in the past.

Castes who were in the OBC category before Jats were included had filed a petition in the Supreme court against the move, arguing that the National Commission for Backward Classes had also recommended against it. This judgement was in response to that.

The court also said that if a caste was wrongly included in the past, that cannot be a justification to include Jats. "Possible wrong inclusion of a caste in the OBC list in the past cannot be the basis of further wrong inclusions," the judges observed.

"The decision is a slap on the Congress and BJP. The Centre cannot include Jats just for political purposes," said Om Veer Singh, who had filed the petition on behalf of the OBC Reservation Raksha Samiti.

This judgement will affect which castes are included in the OBC list going forward. The Jats' representative said they will file for a review in the Supreme Court against its own decision. "We will file a review petition and if that fails, will take to the streets and protest," said OP Sindhu, President, Jat Arakshan Sangharsh Samiti. Sindhu had led past protests, including blocking of railway tracks, to demand reservation for the community.

Nine states already have reservations for Jats. The caste representatives have been trying to get them included in the federal reservation list as well, to open up access to central government-run academic institutions and jobs.

The Twitter community also reacted to the verdict.

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