Calcutta High Court invalidates all OBC certificates issued in West Bengal since 2010

The court condemned this approach as an affront to democracy and the Constitution, accusing the government of treating the Muslim community as a commodity for political gains.

The Calcutta High Court has invalidated all Other Backward Classes (OBC) certificates issued in West Bengal since 2010, a decision that is poised to impact approximately 500,000 certificates. However, the court clarified that individuals who secured employment through these certificates and are currently in service will not be affected by the order.

A division bench consisting of Justices Tapabrata Chakraborty and Rajasekhar Mantha delivered this verdict in response to a plea challenging the procedures for granting OBC certificates in the state. The judgment critically examined the West Bengal Backward Classes (Other than Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes) (Reservation of Vacancies in Services and Posts) Act, 2012, which facilitated reservations in public offices for OBCs.

The court identified significant flaws in the pro forma used by the State Commission, stating that it did not conform to the provisions of the 1993 Act. The judges noted that a class is declared as OBC based on scientific data and its inadequate representation in state services, which was not adequately assessed.

In a severe critique of the ruling Trinamool Congress government, the court noted that the State Commission had hastily notified certain religious communities as OBCs in 2010, coinciding with the political agenda of the then Chief Minister. The court highlighted that 41 of the 42 classes recommended for reservation were from the Muslim community, indicating that the recommendations were religion-specific and politically motivated.

The court condemned this approach as an affront to democracy and the Constitution, accusing the government of treating the Muslim community as a commodity for political gains. The impugned notification was not made available to the public or published in the gazette, further invalidating its legitimacy.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee responded defiantly, rejecting the court’s decision as influenced by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). In contrast, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan accused Banerjee of attempting to redistribute quota rights from backward classes to Muslims, criticizing her for allegedly insulting the Constitution.

The High Court’s ruling not only strikes down 37 classes from OBC reservations under the 2012 Act but also underscores the necessity for transparent and constitutionally compliant procedures in the classification of OBCs. The verdict is a significant blow to the Trinamool Congress, as it undermines the OBC certification process carried out during its regime.