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Supreme Court to examine quota in govt job promotions

The bench asked the states and the Centre to file short notes explaining the guidelines formulated by the respective authorities for granting quota benefits to SCs and STs
Supreme Court of India
Supreme Court of India
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R. Balaji   |   New Delhi   |   Published 15.09.21, 01:49 AM

The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to examine the contention of the Centre and the states that recruitments for various government jobs have come to a standstill owing to disputes over grant of reservation in promotions to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

A bench of Justices L. Nageswara Rao, Sanjiv Khanna and B.R. Gavai asked the states and the Centre to file short notes not exceeding five pages each, explaining the guidelines formulated by the respective authorities for granting quota benefits to SCs and STs.


The court posted the matter for further hearing to October 5 for a detailed analysis.

The issue relates to interpretation of Articles 16 and 16(4)(a) that provide for reservation in promotions under public employment subject to certain conditions.

In all, 133 petitions and applications relating to such reservation have been filed by the Centre, states, Union Territories, individuals and organisations before the bench. They have sought an authoritative pronouncement and clarification from the top court on the grant of reservation in promotions to SCs and STs as multiple high courts have passed conflicting orders.

While some high courts have quashed circulars issued by certain states allowing such a quota, some others have permitted reservation benefits in promotions to the two communities.

Appearing for the Centre on Tuesday, attorney-general K.K. Venugopal submitted that 4,100 employees have been promoted by the central government on an ad hoc basis subject to the outcome of the case, with no reservation offered to SCs and STs.

Another 2,500 posts have remained vacant due to status quo orders on promotions because of conflicting high court verdicts, Venugopal said.

The AG said reservation in promotions had been adequately covered by a constitution bench ruling in the 2006 V. Nagaraj case, yet there was confusion on the guidelines to be followed.

In the 2006 judgment, the apex court had ruled that the government can provide reservation in promotions to SCs and STs provided it was justified through quantifiable data collected by the State on inadequate representation of the two communities in various posts. This was iterated by another five-judge bench in 2018.

Venugopal said all facets had been covered in the earlier judgments, yet it seemed there was confusion over their interpretation, which needed to be sorted out by the top court.

Justice Rao, heading the bench, made it clear that there would be no reconsideration of the Nagaraj judgment.

“My problem, the government of India’s problem is that there are three high court orders passed which say that promotions can continue to be made, while one high court has issued status quo orders on promotions. This opens up the government to contempt,” Venugopal submitted.

He also wanted the court to recall a notice issued by it in 2019 to the Union home secretary in a contempt petition relating to one such petition filed in Bihar.

Senior advocate P.S. Patwalia, appearing for Bihar and Maharashtra, said the Supreme Court would have to decide the core issue of how the states should quantify data and provide adequate reservation benefits to SC and STs.

“That question has been answered in the Nagaraj case. We are not going to handhold the government and say how it will be implemented,” Justice Rao remarked.

Patwalia, however, said that in Bihar about 60 per cent posts were lying vacant in government departments on account of the confusion.

Senior advocate Indira Jaising, appearing for some of the petitioners, said the top court had to examine the benchmarks to be evolved by the states for ensuring implementation of the quota policy in promotions.

The bench replied: “It is not for us to tell the government how to implement the policy. Directions have been passed in the Nagaraj judgment and it is for each state to finalise how they will implement it.”

The court agreed with the suggestion of senior advocate Rajeev Dhawan, appearing for some pro-reservation petitioners, that the petitions could be segregated into batches and heard on different dates.

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