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Quota in promotions:

GS Paper 2:

Topics Covered: Important constitutional amendments.



The Supreme Court has turned down the Union government’s plea to do away with the requirement of collecting quantifiable data by the Centre and states to determine the representation of people belonging to Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) while implementing reservation in promotion.


What’s the case?

The court was hearing a batch of petitions arising out of judgments from 11 high courts, which delivered rulings on various pertinent reservation policies in the last 10 years.

  • Some of the states from where these judgments arose included Maharashtra, Bihar, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Tripura, Madhya Pradesh, and Punjab.


Observations made by the supreme court:

  • State is obligated to collect quantifiable data as per the court’s judgment in M Nagaraj (2006) and Jarnail Singh (2018).
  • Collection of data has to be for each category of posts for the entire service.
  • The Central government must determine a time period to revisit the reservation policy after ascertaining the percentage of posts occupied by SCs/STs.
  • Assessment on the inadequacy of representation of the reserved categories in promotional posts should be left to the states.


Pavitra case:

With the recognition of ‘cadre’ as the unit for collection of quantifiable data, the court has also set aside its earlier judgment in the B.K. Pavithra case.

  • The 2019 judgment by the Supreme Court in BK Pavitra–II upheld the validity of the 2018 Reservation Act that introduced consequential seniority for SC/STs in Karnataka public employment.
  • The top court held that Pavitra-II was decided in breach of the constitution bench judgment in Nagaraj’s case in affirming the state’s policy on consequential seniority on the basis of cadre strength.


What constitutes a cadre?

Explaining why ‘cadre’ should be the unit for the purpose of collection of quantifiable data in relation to promotional posts, the court said otherwise the entire exercise of reservation in promotions would be rendered meaningless if data pertaining to the representation of SCs and STs is done with reference to the entire service.

  • The term ‘cadre’ means the strength of a service or part of a service sanctioned as a separate unit. It is the choice of a State to constitute cadres.
  • The entire service cannot be considered to be a cadre for the purpose of promotion from one post to a higher post in a different grade.
  • Promotion is made from one grade to the next higher grade, in relation to which cadres are constituted.


M Nagaraj case:

In 2006, a Constitution bench’s ruling in the M Nagaraj case made it incumbent upon the state to collect quantifiable data showing inadequacy of representation of a section of people in public employment in addition to maintaining overall administrative efficiency.

  • The aspect of quantifiable data was endorsed by another Constitution bench by its 2018 ruling in the Jarnail Singh case which also mandated the exclusion of the “creamy layer” before providing for reservation in promotions.


What are the arguments by the union Government?

The Union government pressed for reservation in promotion proportionate to the population of SCs and STs as per a 1995 judgment by the top court in the RK Sabharwal case. It should be left to the Centre and states to decide on promotional avenues for SCs and STs.


Present scenario:

At present, there is a roster system in place in every cadre of the government departments to ascertain the posts required to be filled up by SCs/STs.

  • The roster system was based on the proportionate population of SCs/STs.
  • A position in the roster for any reserved group is reached by dividing 100 by the percentage of the quota that the group is entitled to.


Constitutional basis for reservation- 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.


Insta Curious:

Articles 16 (4) and 16 (4-A) of the Constitution does not confer individuals with a fundamental right to claim reservation in promotion.

  • It only empowers the State to make a reservation in matters of appointment and promotion in favour of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, only if in the opinion of the State they are not adequately represented in the services of the State.



Prelims Link:

  1. Article 335.
  2. Article 16(4).
  3. Right to equality.
  4. M. Nagaraj case.

Mains Link:

Discuss the need for reservation in promotions.

Sources: the Hindu.