SC orders status quo, stays SC/ST quota in promotion for government job

16.04.2019:The Times of India

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court stayed on Monday reservation in promotion for Scheduled Castes and Tribes (SC/STs) in government jobs after the Centre and states failed to implement the scheme for want of quantifiable data on the adequacy of their representation.

Hearing a batch of 84 petitions filed by the Centre, states and other individuals, a bench of Justices S A Bobde and Abdul Nazeer directed that status quo be maintained till the issue is decided by it.

A five-judge Constitution bench of the court had, in September last year, said reservation in promotion could be implemented but ruled that the “creamy layer exclusion” principle, which applied only to other backward classes, could be extended to SCs and STs to deny quota benefits to the “elite” among the two socially underprivileged communities.

The apex court had exempted states from collecting quantifiable data on backwardness to justify reservation in promotion by modifying its earlier order in the Nagraj case but held that its 2016 verdict was correct in stipulating the condition on the need for quantifiable data on adequacy of representation. The court said a study is needed on the impact of such promotions on administrative efficiency before granting reservation. The Constitution bench had decided on the broader issue on reservation in promotion and left it for a regular bench to decide petitions filed by individuals and states on the issue.

“According to us, Nagraj has wisely left the test for determining adequacy of representation in promotional posts to the states for the simple reason that as the posts get higher, it may be necessary, even if a proportionality test to the population as a whole is taken into account, to reduce the number of SCs and STs in the promotional posts as one goes upwards,” the court had said.

Subsequent to the SC’s verdict in the Jarnail Singh case, the Delhi high court in November directed the Centre to implement the apex court order and grant reservation in promotion in central jobs within three months as the policy had not been implemented for years due to pendency of the case. “There is no gainsaying that in view of the latest decision of SC in Jarnail Singh, the Union of India and all others are bound to comply with the same,” the court had said.

Challenging the decision of the HC, the Centre rushed to the Supreme Court and attorney general K K Venugopal told the bench that it was not possible to implement the order within three months. “The government has to undertake the exercise in its all departments to find out adequacy of representation of SC/ST employees,” he said and pleaded the court to stay the order of the HC.

Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan and advocate Kumar Parimal, appearing for government employees from the general category, told the bench that the SC verdict was very clear and reservation in promotion could not be implemented without fulfilling the conditions laid down in Jarnail Singh and Nagraj cases.

Lawyers appearing for the state governments contended that the SC should adjudicate the issue to put to rest the controversy as thousands of posts were lying vacant due to non-implementation of the policy and pleaded the bench to decide the issue at the earliest.

The court, which had earlier directed Maharashtra, Tripura and other states to maintain status quo, said it was not possible to give an early hearing and posted it for October 15 for final hearing.

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