Centre clarifies after controversy over university body’s reservation policy draft

The Ministry of Education (MoE) in New Delhi has issued a clarification stating that reserved posts cannot be de-reserved, following draft guidelines proposed by the University Grants Commission (UGC). The UGC’s guidelines suggested that if an adequate number of candidates from Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST), and Other Backward Classes (OBC) are not available, reserved vacancies can be declared unreserved.

The draft guidelines, titled “Guidelines for Implementation of the Reservation Policy of the Government of India in Higher Education Institutes (HEIs),” are currently open for feedback from stakeholders. However, they have faced criticism from various quarters. The Congress party has alleged a conspiracy to abolish reservation for SCs, STs, and OBCs in higher education institution posts, accusing the Modi government of engaging in symbolic politics rather than addressing the concerns of marginalized communities.

Protests against the draft guidelines have also taken place, with the JNU Students’ Union (JNUSU) staging a demonstration and burning an effigy of UGC Chairman M Jagadesh Kumar. However, Mr. Kumar clarified that there has been no de-reservation of reserved category positions in Central Educational Institutions (CEI) in the past and there will be no such de-reservation in the future.

The Ministry of Education emphasized that reservation in CEIs is mandated by the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Teachers’ Cadre) Act, 2019, which ensures that all posts in direct recruitment for the Teacher’s cadre are reserved. The ministry has instructed all CEIs to strictly adhere to the provisions of this act while filling vacancies.

The UGC chairman also reiterated that there have been no de-reservations of reserved category positions in Central Educational Institutions previously and there will be none in the future. He stressed the importance of filling all backlog positions in the reserved category through dedicated efforts.

According to the new draft guidelines by the UGC, a vacancy reserved for SC, ST, or OBC candidates cannot be filled by candidates from other categories. However, a reserved vacancy can be declared unreserved through a de-reservation procedure and subsequently filled as an unreserved vacancy.

The draft guidelines allow for de-reservation in rare and exceptional cases when a vacancy in a Group A service cannot be left vacant in the public interest. The concerned university must submit a proposal for de-reservation, including information on efforts made to fill the post, reasons why it cannot remain vacant, and justification for de-reservation. The proposal for de-reservation of Group A or B vacancies should be submitted to the Ministry of Education for approval.

In the case of promotions, if there are an insufficient number of eligible SC and ST candidates for reserved vacancies, these vacancies may be de-reserved and filled by candidates from other communities. The UGC and the Ministry of Education have the delegated authority to approve the de-reservation of reserved vacancies under specific conditions.

To ensure transparency and resolve any disagreements, the guidelines state that the proposal for de-reservation must be concurred with by the liaison officer for SCST of the university. If there is a disagreement between the appointing authority and the liaison officer, the advice of the Department of Personnel and Training will be sought and implemented.

The Ministry of Education’s clarification comes amid concerns raised by various stakeholders regarding the potential impact of the draft guidelines on reservation policies in higher education institutions.

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