The Bombay High Court Friday struck down a government resolution of 2004 that provided for reservations in matters of promotion in favour of the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Denotified Tribes, certain Nomadic Tribes and Special Backward Classes. The court held that the resolution was “ultra vires” the Constitution of India and contrary to the laws laid down in the country.
A division bench of Justice Anoop Mohta and Justice A A Sayed further directed the government to take “necessary corrective steps in respect of promotions already granted within 12 weeks.” With the state government seeking a stay on the order, the court acceded to their request. “We stay the effect and operation of this order for a period of 12 weeks,” said the Bench.
The court held that the resolution was “ultra vires Article 16(4 A) of the Constitution.” Article 16(4) provides that nothing in Article 16 shall prevent the state from making any provision for the “reservation of appointments or posts in favour of any backward class of citizens’ which, in the opinion of the state, is not adequately represented in the services under the state.
The High Court, meanwhile, set aside a November 28, 2014, order of the Maharashtra Administrative Tribunal (MAT) which strikes down the Reservation Act. “The issue of constitutional validity of the Reservation Act is kept open for determination in appropriate case and on an appropriate occasion,” said the Bench. This order comes after an earlier conflict in opinion in this matter between Justice Anoop Mohta and Justice A A Sayed led to the matter being referred to Justice Sonak.
Justice Sonak agreed with the view expressed by Justice Sayed regarding the government resolution issued on May 25, 2004, stating the resolution was unconstitutional. However, all three Judges concurred on the point of striking down the MAT order.
The main petitioner, Vijay Ghogre, challenged the legality of having reservations at the stage of promotions. The High Court had directed MAT to decide the issue as per the law. On November 28, 2014, the MAT held the Maharashtra State Public Services (Reservations for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Denotified Tribes (Vimukta Jatis), Nomadic Tribes, Special Backward Category and other backward Classes) Act 2001 (Reservation Act) and the the subsequent GR on May 25, 2004 as ultra vires the Constitution of India.