New Delhi: A directive by the University Grants Commission (UGC) which directly affects the recruitment of SC/ST/OBC teachers has found opposition from within the government. In a strongly worded letter, Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thawar Chand Gehlot has asked HRD minster Prakash Javadekar for a rollback.
Gehlot says the government is duty-bound to ensure proper representation of marginalised sections in teaching position and that the circular contradicts constitutional provisions.
The bone of contention is a circular issued by the UGC on March 5, according to which SC/ST/OBC vacancies would be filled taking a Department or Subject as one unit, and not the university.
According to Gehlot, the new notification would dent efforts to ensure that SC/ST/OBC categories get 15%, 7.5% and 27% jobs, respectively as per the constitutional provision. “Under the earlier reservation roster, when the university was taken as unit, the SC/ST/OBC got reservations to some extent. But with the new roster, according to which the reservations will consider the department as a unit, there will be a decline in the number of SC/ST/OBCs as professors, assistant professors etc.”
The minister further added, “The number of these castes in teaching faculty will fall because under the new roster system — OBC will be eligible for reservation only at the 4th vacancy, SC on number 7th vacant post and ST only the 14th vacant post.”
Department-wise vacancies are usually very few, which means there would be no jobs left by the time SC/ST/OBCs become eligible.
“The roster should be prepared taking university as unit and do away with the department being taken as a unit so that they get representation in academic world and teaching posts in the spirit of our Constitution.”
The amendments notified in the UGC circular are to Clause 6(c) and 8(a)(v) of the UGC Guidelines 2006.
The Existing System
Before the amendment by the UGC, the practice of making department-wise roster was prohibited as it would lead to denial of reservation in smaller departments.
According to the earlier clause 6(c): “…The practice of creating department-wise cadres, which tends to create single posts or cadres with artificially reduced number of posts in order to avoid reservation, is strictly prohibited.”
Clause 8 (a)(v) said, “The Roster, 40- point or 100-point as the case may be, shall be applied to total number of posts in cadre only (RK Sabharwal v. State of Punjab AIR 1995 SC 1371); cadre is best indicated by seniority list governing the members with the same pay-scale.”
But on April 7, 2017 the Allahabad HC granted a plea challenging an advertisement brought out by Banaras Hindu University (BHU) and praying for the squashing of these clauses. The court also directed “the respondent University to carry out the exercise of applying reservation to the posts under advertisement treating the department/subject as a unit for all levels of teachers.”
In the light of the court order, the UGC set up a committee that recommended amendment of clauses 6(c) and 8(a) (v). The government approved the amendment and the UGC notified it on March 5. After the amendment, the clauses read as follows:
Clause 6(c): In case of reservation for SC/ST, all Universities, Deemed to be Universities, Colleges and other Grant-in-Aid Institutions and Centres shall prepare the roster system keeping the Department/Subject as a unit for all levels of teachers as applicable.
Clause 8(a)(v): The roster, department-wise, shall be applied to the total number of posts in each of the categories [(e.g.) Professor, Associate Professor, Assistant Professor] within the Department/Subject.
The amended clauses are opposed to the earlier stipulation, which specifically prohibited department-wise rosters as that would have the effect of defeating the implementation of the reservation policy.
How the DoPT assured the constitutional mandate
The UGC notification has brought about a complete U-turn in the government’s position on reservation and paves the way for the defeat of the constitutional mandate.
The Department Of Personnel Training (DoPT) on July 2, 1997, in compliance with judgment of the Supreme Court in the matter of RK Sabharwal vs State of Punjab, had defined cadre as “Cadre, for the purpose of a roster, shall mean a particular grade and shall comprise the number of posts to be filled by a particular mode of recruitment in terms of the applicable Recruitment Rules,” and warned against the practice of making small cadres as it would lead to denial of reservation to some categories.
Gehlot has demanded that the UGC circular be withdrawn immediately and wider consultation with stake-holders are held.
The Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA) recently released a statement demanding that “the entire issue arising from the Allahabad High Court judgment should be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee for its consideration and its recommendations placed before Parliament so that the matter is resolved in a manner commensurate with the constitutional commitment to Social Justice.”