A bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and P S Narasimha also set a deadline of four weeks for the high court to decide the constitutional validity of the Haryana State Employment of Local Candidates Act, 2020 and deliver the final verdict. The bench also said that it was not proper for the HC to stay the operation of the law by passing a one-line order and without giving any reasoning.
Pressing for quashing of the HC order, solicitor general Tushar Mehta pleaded that staying a piece of legislation without giving a proper hearing and reasoning was “very harsh” as there is always presumption of the constitutional validity of a legislation. He said more than 38,000 workers and 900 establishments had registered under the law and clarified that the reservation was applicable to Class III and IV jobs and with salary up to Rs 30,000 per month.
The bench, however, observed that 75% reservation is “a major chunk” and the law has to be examined.
Senior advocates Dushyant Dave and Shyam Divan, appearing for various associations of companies and industrial units operating in Haryana, contended that the law framed by the state was a very drastic legislation and affected the very idea of the Indian economy as a unit. They said that such a policy would not only affect their functioning and operations but it is also against the integrity of the country as other states will also bring similar laws to grant reservation on the basis of domicile.
Dave contended that reservation in the private sector was not allowed under the Constitution and said there was nothing wrong in the HC staying the law. He submitted that the law was not only applicable to industrial units but even trust, law firms and other working places had been brought within its ambit. He said there are more than nine lakh employers who will be affected by the law.
The bench, however, said the HC order was not right as no reasoning was given to pass an interim order. “This is not the way to pass an order to stay a law. If it is permitted then all statutes could be stayed by passing a one-line order,” the bench said.
It also protected employers and directed that no punitive or coercive action be taken against them for not implementing the law. This means that they can carry on their operations as earlier till validity of the law is decided by the HC.
Responding to the court’s suggestion on whether the parties, including the Haryana government, are agreeable that cases pertaining to similar policy of other states reserving seats on the basis of domicile be considered together, both the sides told the bench that all cases be heard together by the SC. But as the Haryana government was pressing for setting aside the interim order of the Punjab and Haryana HC, the bench asked the HC to decide the validity of the law and refrained from passing an order to club all cases. Mehta informed the court that the states of Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Haryana have framed laws on reservation in the private sector on the basis of domicile.
The HC had on February 3 put on hold the Haryana government’s law as it failed to find merit in the state’s arguments on treating the legislation as prime facie valid in the interests of the unemployed youths in the state.