The Supreme Court on Monday sought the Centre’s response on a petition filed by the Haryana government challenging the Punjab and Haryana High Court’s order, which deemed its law instituting 75 per cent reservation in private sector jobs for state residents as “unconstitutional.”
A bench comprising Justices P S Narasimha and Aravind Kumar issued notices to the Union of India and the Faridabad Industries Association regarding the Haryana government’s appeal.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Haryana government, contended that the high court’s decision lacked reasoning. The Haryana government has appealed to the Supreme Court against the high court’s November 17, 2023, ruling.
The high court, in its 83-page judgment, not only declared the Haryana State Employment of Local Candidates Act, 2020, as “ultravires” but also stated that it would be “ineffective from the date it came into force.” The Act, which came into effect on January 15, 2022, mandated 75 per cent reservation in private sector jobs for candidates from the state with a maximum monthly salary or wages up to Rs 30,000.
The high court, in its order, emphasized, “The underlying object of the legislation…is to create an artificial gap and a discrimination qua the citizens of India.” It opined that it is beyond the state’s purview to legislate on such matters and restrict private employers from recruiting from the open market for employees earning less than Rs 30,000 per month.
The court added, “It is not for the state as such to direct the private employer who it has to employ keeping in view the principles of laissez-faire that ‘the lesser it governs, the better itself’.” It argued that the state cannot discriminate against individuals based on their state of origin, as it goes against the principles of the Constitution.
The high court maintained that introducing state-specific employment protection would lead to widespread enactments with artificial barriers, contrary to the framers’ intentions. It noted a violation of constitutional morality by assigning secondary status to citizens not from Haryana and restricting their fundamental rights. Furthermore, the court highlighted the constitutional bar on discriminating among citizens in employment based on place of birth or residence. The Act applied to employers in private sector companies, societies, trusts, limited liability partnership firms, partnership firms, and any entity employing 10 or more individuals in Haryana. The provision of 75 per cent reservation in private sector jobs for state residents was a significant electoral commitment of the Jannayak Janta Party, a ruling coalition partner, during the 2019 assembly polls.