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SC/ST quota in promotions

Topic covered:

Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

 

SC/ST quota in promotions

 

What to study?

For prelims: Names of relevant SC cases and constitutional provisions wrt to SC/ST welfare.

For mains: Significance of Supreme Court verdict and its implications.

 

Context: Supreme Court, in a landmark ruling, has upheld the constitutional validity of a 2018 Karnataka law granting consequential seniority to government servants promoted on the basis of reservation.

 

The Verdict:

While upholding the validity of the Karnataka Extension of Consequential Seniority to Government Servants Promoted on the Basis of Reservation (to the Posts in the Civil Services of the State) Act, 2018, said it “has cured the deficiency” on account of which a 2002 law on reservation in promotions had been quashed in 2017.

The “deficiency” referred to was the lack of an exercise to determine and collect quantifiable data on inadequacy of representation, backwardness and the impact on overall efficiency before the law was enacted, as mandated by the Supreme Court’s 2006 judgment in M Nagaraj vs Union of India.

 

What’s the issue?

Karnataka’s 2018 law protects consequential seniority from April 24, 1978. The Karnataka legislature enacted the 2018 law after the Supreme Court invalidated the 2002 Act in B K Pavitra vs Union of India. Striking down the 2002 law in 2017, the Supreme Court had said that Sections 3 and 4 of the Act were ultra vires of Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution on the ground that the exercise mandated in the Nagaraj judgment had not been carried out.

 

Observations made by SC:

  • Quota for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes is “not at odds with the principle of meritocracy” and is “true fulfilment of effective and substantive equality by accounting for the structural conditions into which people are born”.
  • The providing of reservation for SCs and STs is not at odds with the principle of meritocracy. Merit must not be limited to narrow and inflexible criteria such as one’s rank in a standardised exam, but rather must flow from the actions a society seeks to reward, including the promotion of equality in society and diversity in public administration.

 

Why this is significant?

This Supreme Court order is significant because it underlines “a ‘meritorious’ candidate is not merely one who is ‘talented ‘or ‘successful’ but also one whose appointment fulfils the constitutional goals of uplifting members of the SCs and STs and ensuring a diverse and representative administration”.

 

Constitutional basis- Article 335:

Article 335 recognises that special measures need to be adopted for considering the claims of SCs and STs in order to bring them to a level-playing field.

Need: Centuries of discrimination and prejudice suffered by the SCs and STs in a feudal, caste-oriented societal structure poses real barriers of access to opportunity. The proviso contains a realistic recognition that unless special measures are adopted for the SCs and STs, the mandate of the Constitution for the consideration of their claim to appointment will remain illusory.

Significance: The proviso is an aid of fostering the real and substantive right to equality to the SCs and STs. It protects the authority of the Union and the States to adopt any of these special measures, to effectuate a realistic (as opposed to a formal) consideration of their claims to appointment in services and posts under the Union and the states. It also emphasises that the need to maintain the efficiency of administration cannot be construed as a fetter on adopting these special measures designed to uplift and protect the welfare of the SCs and STs.

Indra Sawhney vs Union of India and M Nagraj case:

  • In its landmark 1992 decision in Indra Sawhney vs Union of India, the Supreme Court had held that reservations under Article 16(4) could only be provided at the time of entry into government service but not in matters of promotion. It added that the principle would operate only prospectively and not affect promotions already made and that reservation already provided in promotions shall continue in operation for a period of five years from the date of the judgment. It also ruled that the creamy layer can be and must be excluded.
  • On June 17, 1995, Parliament, acting in its constituent capacity, adopted the seventy-seventh amendment by which clause (4A) was inserted into Article 16 to enable reservation to be made in promotion for SCs and STs. The validity of the seventy-seventh and eighty-fifth amendments to the Constitution and of the legislation enacted in pursuance of those amendments was challenged before the Supreme Court in the Nagaraj case.
  • Upholding the validity of Article 16 (4A), the court then said that it is an enabling provision. “The State is not bound to make reservation for the SCs and STs in promotions. But, if it seeks to do so, it must collect quantifiable data on three facets — the backwardness of the class; the inadequacy of the representation of that class in public employment; and the general efficiency of service as mandated by Article 335 would not be affected”.
  • The court ruled that the constitutional amendments do not abrogate the fundamentals of equality.

 

Sources: The Hindu.