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Arjun Singh 'Categorically' Denies EC Charge

Written by: Staff

New Delhi, Apr 9 (UNI) Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh tonight regretted an Election Commission communication and ''categorically'' denied making ''any announcement'' in respect of any percentage of reservations in favour of any sections of the society.

''Nothing can be farther from facts... There is no basis even for a prima facie view to that effect,'' Singh said replying to the Election Commission of India, which demanded ''my explanation for allegedly making an announcement on April 5.'' The announcement in question was to provide ''27 per cent quota'' for Other Backward Classes in such central government funded institutions as the Indian Institutes of Management, Indian Institutes of Technology and Central Universities.

Singh explained he had made no announcement of ''any concession much less any other breach of the model code of conduct.'' ''It is unfortunate,'' Singh said, ''that the Commission has issued the above communication to the Cabinet Secretary merely on the basis of what it calls 'various reports appearing in the electronic and print media.' ''And (the EC) has concluded that the alleged announcement 'amounts to new concession to certain sections of the electorate in the States of Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Union Territory of Pondicherry.' ''What is more, it has also been concluded that 'it prima facie, violates the Model Code of Conduct,' without mentioning which provision of the model code the Commission had in view.'' The HRD Minister cited newspaper reports-- The Hindu of April 6 and Navbharat Times of April 7-- that the response ''was in reply to a specific question as to when the government proposes to announce the decision.

''The reply given was that the decision would be taken and announced only after the elections to the five state assemblies are over.

Singh pointed out that Article 15(5) of the Constitution came into force on January 20, 2006 - the date on which it received the Presidential assent.

''Thus advancement of socially and educationally backward classes of citizens (OBCs) in matters of admission-- including reservation of seats and any other means-- is an existing constitutional scheme and by no stretch of imagination is a new announcement.

''Several steps have been taken by the Central Government to implement this constitutional mandate since then,'' he said, reciting a chronology of ''major events and steps in this direction.'' This, he said, ''would amply prove that these have been in motion much before the coming in to force of the Model Code of Conduct'' on March one in respect of the forthcoming elections.

''I categorically deny that at any time before or on the 5th of April, 2006 or subsequently, any announcement has been made in respect of any percentage of reservations in favour of any sections of the society or have said any thing on the matter which is not already in the public domain or which is inconsistent with the all-Party consensus arrived at in Parliament leading to the Constitutional amendment.

''To recapitulate, while replying to the debate in Lok Sabha on the 21st December 2005, I gave the following commitment: 'I would like to assure the House, certainly Members cutting across all parties- who belong to the backward classes- that every single advantage that has accrued to the country after the Mandal Commission, shall accrue to the country after this Bill is passed, in terms of admission and in terms of other advantages which the backward classes should get.

'Yes, there will be certain procedures and certain other steps would have to be taken, as the hon. members said here this morning.

Those steps will be taken. You rest assured that we will not leave these things halfway- the question does not arise.

'Then, Sir, one query has been raised and I cannot but respond to it because it has pointed out that you are saying that this Amendment will bring these rights to the OBC's in the private unaided colleges.

'But, how is it that these rights do not accrue to them today in many of the Central institutions? It is a very pertinent question.

I do not want to duck it.

'I would like to assure this hon. House that after the passage of this Amendment, the question of reservation in the Central institutions, this problem will be addressed frontally and in a holistic manner.

'The enabling provisions of this Amendment, in fact, make our task simpler and indeed define our stand and intention on this issue.' Singh said that on April 5, the took part in a function, organised by the National Council of Educational Research and Training to release new NCERT text books in the presence of media.

''At the end of the function, some media men posed questions regarding the HRD Ministry's proposal on the reservation in various institutions including Central Universities.

''At this juncture, I made a reference to the constitutional amendment and made it clear that the necessary follow up action is under way and decision would follow after the ensuing assembly elections.

''I may add that a decision of the central government in regard to percentage of reservation of seats is yet to be taken and on being asked by the media, I have declined to comment precisely on the ground that the election process was underway in some States.

''In view of the above factual position, the Commission may drop the proceedings.

''Since the communication addressed by the Commission to the Cabinet Secretary has received wide attention in the media, I am releasing this clarification to set at rest any misgivings in public mind in this regard.''


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