The letter "a" made all the difference
By Sarbjit Singh
Tribune News Service

CHANDIGARH, Nov 24 - A "blunder" committed by the Punjab Government in reproducing the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order 1950, in the form of a Manual of Instructions for Reservation for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in government service made Mrs Satwant Kaur Sandhu, Minister of State for Printing and Stationery , pay a heavy price.

The order had been reproduced as the manual by the government to grant it legal sanctity to provide reservation to the Scheduled Castes in the state.

She was unseated yesterday by the Punjab and Haryana High Court as the Ramdasia caste, on the basis of which she contested from the Chamkaur Sahib reserved assembly constituency, was not recognised as a Scheduled Caste in the Constitution.

Mr G.S. Bal, counsel for Mrs Satwant Kaur, told Tribune News Service that while reproducing the order, the authorities concerned in the state government wittingly or unwittingly substituted the word "Ramdasi" by "Ramdasia", adding the letter "a" to it on their own. The order recognises the word "Ramdasi" and not "Ramdasia", as used by the Punjab Government in its reservation policy.

The officers concerned in Punjab issue certificates to beneficiaries mentioning the word "Ramdasia".

He said Mrs Satwant Kaur would file an appeal in the Supreme Court to challenge the decision of the high court. He said there was a time limit of 30 days to file the appeal. The judgement of the high court had become operative immediately after it was delivered by Mr Justice Amar Dutt.

Mr Bal said the implications of the judgement were extensive. All officials under the reserved category, who secured employment against the reservation quota by submitting certificates mentioning their caste as "Ramdasia" could lose their jobs. He said the state government would have to amend its manual to replace the word "Ramdasia" with "Ramdasi".

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