The Supreme Court on Wednesday declined to refer the 2006 judgement laying down the criteria for reservation in promotion for SC/ST employees to a seven-judge bench. The decision means that members of the Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe community will not have reservation quota while being considered for job promotions in government service.
The court also clarified that the states need not collect quantifiable data to show backwardness before granting promotions to members of the SC/ST community.
A five-judge constitution bench, in its verdict in 2006 in the M Nagaraj case, had said, "The state will have to show in each case the existence of compelling reasons, namely backwardness, the inadequacy of representation and overall administrative efficiency, before making provision for reservation in promotion.
Following the verdict, states were bound to provide data on the backwardness of scheduled castes (SC) and scheduled tribes (ST), details about their representation in government jobs, before they made policies for reservations in promotions for people belonging to underprivileged communities.
In a unanimous verdict, the Supreme Court reiterated that reservation in promotions will not be referred to a seven-judge bench and clarified that states need not collect quantifiable data while making policies for reservations in promotions.
This comes after the Centre and various state governments sought a reconsideration of the 2006 verdict, contending that members of the SC/ST communities should be given reservation in job promotions. The central government contended that the 2006 ruling is coming in the way of filling lakhs of vacancies in various government departments.
The Centre asserted that the verdict put unnecessary conditions while granting promotions to SC/ST employees.
A five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra reserved its verdict in the case on August 30 after hearing representations from various stakeholders, including the central government.
Attorney general KK Venugopal, who appeared representing the central government, argued that SC/ST employees should be granted a quota in promotions due to the stigma and presumption of backwardness they face. He claimed that even though some have managed to secure promotions, they have been facing caste-based discrimination for a long time. He further added that the economic well-being of a section of the SC/ST community does not discount their social exclusion.
Meanwhile, senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, who represented those opposing the reservation in promotions, claimed that the presumption of backwardness of SC/ST employees is not seen once they take up government jobs. He argued that the quota in promotions can be continued for class-III and class-IV jobs but should not be allowed for higher services.
The litigants, who opposed to reservation in promotion, also contended that Dalits and Adivasis have come to occupy the office of the President, Central Ministers, Chief Justice of India and Chief Ministers, and this section is “no more socially disabled as they were in the past.”
The Supreme Court had asked why a principle cannot be put in place to deny quota benefits in promotion to those affluent among SCs and STs. Earlier, the Supreme Court questioned why promotions in government jobs were being given to affluent persons in the SC/ST community, who are holding high official positions. It had also asked why a principle cannot be introduced to exclude affluent persons from enjoying the benefits of reservation, similar to the 'creamy layer' principle used to exclude affluent other backward classes (OBC) persons.
The ruling added that the ‘creamy layer’ principle will not be applied to members of the SC/ST community while considering them for promotions in government service.
The verdict on Wednesday means that from now on, states do not have to collect quantifiable data before making provisions to reserve promotional posts.