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SC, ST quota in promotions: Supreme Court refuses to lay down yardstick, says states obligated to collect data

🔴 A three-judge bench headed by Justice Nageswara Rao said that states are obligated to collect data on the inadequacy of representation of SCs/STs.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: January 29, 2022 1:54:42 am
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta is likely to mention the plea before a bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana for urgent hearing. (File Photo)

Declining to dilute conditions it had stipulated earlier for providing reservation in promotions to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, the Supreme Court said Friday it “cannot lay down any yardstick for determining inadequacy of” their “representation” in public employment.

The bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao, Sanjiv Khanna and B R Gavai pointed out that the court even in the past had refused to lay down any yardstick and had left it to states to determine the factors relevant for deciding adequate representation, depending upon the promotional posts in question.

Reiterating the position, the bench said “laying down of criteria for determining the inadequacy of representation would result in curtailing the discretion given to the State Governments. In addition, the prevailing local conditions, which may require to be factored in, might not be uniform”.

Pointing out that the court, in its  2006 judgement in M Nagaraj vs Union of India, had “made it clear that the validity of law made by the State Governments providing reservation in promotions shall be decided on a case-to-case basis for the purpose of establishing whether the inadequacy of representation is supported by quantifiable data”, the bench said “therefore, we are of the opinion that no yardstick can be laid down by this Court for determining the adequacy of representation of SCs and STs in promotional posts for the purpose of providing reservation”.

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The court said that “before providing for reservation in promotions to a cadre, the State is obligated to collect quantifiable data regarding inadequacy of representation of SCs and STs” but the exercise of collection of information “cannot be with reference to the entire service or ‘class’/’group’, but it should be relatable to the grade/category of post to which promotion is sought”.

It said the “cadre which should be the unit for the purpose of collection of quantifiable data in relation to promotional posts would be meaningless if data pertaining to representation of SCs and STs is with reference to the entire service”.

Stating that there should be review of the data collected, it said the period of review should be “reasonable”.

The bench also said that the Nagaraj judgement “would have prospective effect”.

The judgement came on appeals by the Centre and States which said they could not proceed with many promotions due to ambiguities in applying reservation norms and urged the court to clarify.

In the Nagaraj case, a five-judge Constitution bench had upheld the Constitutional amendments by which Articles 16 (4A) and 16 (4B) were inserted, saying they flow from Article 16 (4) and do not alter its structure.

Article 16 (4A) empowers the State to make provisions for reservation in matters of promotion to SC/ST employees if it feels they are not adequately represented in services, and (4B) enables the State to carry forward the unfilled SC/ST quota of a particular year without clubbing it with the regular vacancies of the year to which it is carried forward to.

The Nagaraj ruling also laid down three conditions which the State must fulfil before granting reservation in promotion to SCs and STs.

“The State is not bound to make reservation for SC/ST in matter of promotions. However, if they wish to exercise their discretion and make such provision, the State has to collect quantifiable data showing backwardness of the class and inadequacy of representation of that class in public employment in addition to compliance of Article 335. It is made clear that even if the State has compelling reasons, as stated above, the State will have to see that its reservation provision does not lead to excessiveness so as to breach the ceiling-limit of 50% or obliterate the creamy layer or extend the reservation indefinitely,” the court ruled.

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