Haryana's Bill Providing 75% Local Quota in Private Sector Jobs May Run into Legal Hurdles

The future of the Bill hinges on the approach the Centre would have to it.

New Delhi: The Haryana Assembly on Thursday passed the Haryana State Employment of Local Candidates Bill, 2020, that provides for 75% reservation for local residents in private sector jobs that offer a salary of less than Rs 50,000 per month.

The Bill was passed by the BJP-led coalition government and was a poll promise of its alliance partner, the Jannayak Janata Party. It was tabled in the state assembly by JJP leader and Haryana deputy chief minister Dushyant Chautala.

While it has been stated that the new legislation would cover all private companies, societies, trusts and partnership firms in the state, the Bill may run into legal hurdles and can also face resistance from the Centre.

Promise to restrict law to unskilled workers not kept

Earlier this year, when the draft Bill was being discussed, Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar is learnt to have conveyed that he did not want the new law to put unnecessary pressure on the industry. It was felt that the industry employs a large number of skilled workers from all parts of the country and imposing a quota on it would hamper its functioning.

In February, Khattar had explicitly declared that the proposed reservation would only be for unskilled workers. “It will not be mandatory for the industry and enterprises to implement the quota. Also, if the industry is not able to get 75% workers from Haryana, they will be at liberty to hire from outside the state,” he said.

However, the Bill does not differentiate between skilled and unskilled workers and only places a salary bar of Rs 50,000 per month so that very high paying and skilled jobs – related to IT, manufacturing or the health sector – will be the ones to not be impacted by it.

Khattar had in February also stated that the new law would not force the hand of the industry. “It will not be mandatory for the industry and enterprises to implement the quota.” However, in its final shape, the legislation imposes definite restrictions.

The Haryana assembly in session on November 5, 2020. Photo: PTI

In January, when the draft Bill was being vetted, it was pointed out that the Bill could run foul of Article 14 and 19 (1)(g) which pertain to equality before law; and protection of certain rights to practice any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business, respectively.

The constitutional validity of a similar law enacted by the Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy government in Andhra Pradesh has been challenged in the Andhra Pradesh high court.

JJP says promise to youth fulfilled

While Khattar said the Bill would result in employment for local youth, Chautala said his party’s promise to the youth of the state has now been fulfilled.He also pointed out that the Bill has been passed exactly a year after the BJP-JJP government was formed in the state.

Chautala said that from now onwards, every new or existing industrial or commercial unit in the state will have to advertise vacancies keeping in mind the new quota.

Governor had not given assent to ordinance earlier

The Bill will only become a law once it has been passed by the state governor.

Earlier this year Governor Satyadeo Narain Arya had not given assent to this ordinance and had referred it to the President for his consideration. It was then pointed out by Chautala that the governor had had reservations with the ordinance as it had “an overriding effect over other laws”.

The Haryana government had then declared that it would go ahead with bringing in legislation affecting reservation.

But the future of the Bill hinges on the approach the Centre would have to it, especially since labour-related matters are in the Concurrent List of the Constitution. So far the Centre has not favoured any kind of reservation in private sector jobs.

Also read: Supreme Court Says Reservations For Jobs, Promotions Not A Fundamental Right

Employment from same district

The statement of objectives of the Bill said it would encourage private employers to boost local employment. The Bill lays down that 10% of the recruitment by a company would have to be from the district in which it was located while the rest may cover other districts.

The reservation would initially become effective for 10 years. The Bill also provides for training of local candidates – who have been defined as those having a Haryana domicile – if enough qualified people are not available.

“The influx of a large number of migrants competing for low-paid jobs places a significant impact on local infrastructure and housing and leads to the proliferation of slums,” the statement read, adding that this resulted in environment and health issues and affected livelihood and quality of life.

“Therefore,” it reasoned, that “giving preference to local candidates in low-paid jobs is socially, economically and environmentally desirable and any such preference would be in the interest of the general public.”

Opposition, ruling party leaders raise concerns

In Haryana, both the Opposition and ruling coalition leaders have already raised certain concerns around the legislation.

Senior JJP MLA and former national vice president of the party, Ram Kumar Gautam, said the law would set a wrong precedent and may prompt other states too to stop hiring youth from Haryana. “If other states say they will not take Haryana youths, where will they go? Can you stop any person hailing from another state from working here? This is wrong,” he argued.

Former Haryana CM and Congress leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda questioned why the companies have been allowed freedom to recruit only 10% employees from the district in which they operated.