The Punjab and Haryana High Court, which has granted stay on a Haryana law providing 75 per cent reservation in private sector jobs for the state's residents, has made it clear that the core issue for adjudication before it is whether any state can restrict employment, even in the private sector, on the basis of domicile.
"We have considered these arguments, but the core issue is whether any state can restrict employment (even in the private sector) on the basis of domicile," a bench comprising justices Ajay Tewari and Pankaj Jain said in the detailed order that stayed the implementation of the law. The court had, on Thursday, passed the order on pleas filed by an industry body from Faridabad and some other associations, and the detailed order was released on Friday. "In these circumstances, we are constrained to stay the implementation of the Act," the bench said. It added that the counsel for the petitioners had prayed for interim relief.
On the question of stay, the solicitor general candidly conceded that the writ petitions involve substantial questions, but vehemently opposed the prayer for interim relief, the court said. The solicitor general pointed out three facts, which according to him would have a material bearing on the matter, it pointed out.
"The first argument of the Solicitor General of India is that there is always a presumption of constitutionality of a statutory provision and though the writ court has ample jurisdiction to ultimately hold that a statutory provision is unconstitutional, yet interim orders should not be granted. "His second argument is that there is an insinuation that this law would affect even existing employees, which is incorrect. The law is prospective and it saves all the existing staff," the bench said.
It noted that the solicitor general's third argument is that about 38,000 registered domicile workers and around 900 establishments have registered under the Act and this itself shows that only a handful of people are opposed to the implementation of the law. The Supreme Court agreed on Friday to hear on February 7 the Haryana government's appeal challenging the high court order. Tushar Sharma, the counsel for one of the petitioners, had on Thursday said they had challenged the vires of the Act in the high court.
"I was representing one of the petitioners -- IMT Manesar Association and Manesar Industrial Welfare Association. We were challenging the vires of the Act. We were saying this Act is unconstitutional, discriminatory and violative of the fundamental rights of our members and were seeking quashing of the Act. The high court admitted the petition," he had said. The Haryana State Employment of Local Candidates Act, 2020 provides for 75 per cent reservation in the private sector to job seekers having state domicile. It came into force on January 15 after being notified in November last year. It applies to jobs offering a maximum gross monthly salary or wages of Rs 30,000.
The Act is applicable to the employers of private sector companies, societies, trusts, limited liability partnership firms, partnership firms and anyone who employs 10 or more people on salary, wages or other remuneration for the purpose of manufacturing, carrying on business or rendering any service in Haryana. In March 2021, Governor Bandaru Dattatreya had given his assent to the Haryana State Employment of Local Candidates Bill, 2020.
Opposition parties have slammed the BJP-JJP government in the state over the move, with Congress leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda criticising the Manohar Lal Khattar dispensation on Thursday for its alleged failure "to defend its own jumla of providing 75 per cent reservation to local youngsters before the courts". Haryana Congress chief Kumari Selja had said the intentions of the BJP-JJP government were doubtful from the very beginning. "This is the reason why the government did not fight the case strongly in the court," she had said.
With PTI Inputs