SC, ST Reservations in Promotions

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    In News

    • The Supreme Court has refused to dilute conditions for reservations in the promotion of Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) in government jobs, adding that it cannot lay down a new yardstick.

    About

    • Court judgements: Right from the Indra Sawhney verdict of 1992, popularly known as the Mandal Commission case to the Jarnail Singh verdict of 2018 has been referred to by the apex court.
    • A three-judge bench headed by Justice Nageswara Rao: said states are obligated to collect data on the inadequacy of representation of SCs/STs.
      • The 2006 judgment 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.
    • 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.
      • (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.

    Issues

    • Even after around 75 years of independence: those belonging to SCs and STs have not been brought to the same level of merit as the forward classes.
    • The judgment 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.
    • Creamy layer exclusion test: is applicable for OBC because it aims at addressing economic backwardness. But the rationale of reservation for SC/ST is to end discrimination based on caste which has been a feature of the Indian society for thousands of years.

    Suggestions

    • 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.
    • Ceiling-limit of 50%: Even if the State has compelling reasons, the State will have to see that it’s 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.
    • Collection of information on inadequacy of representation of SC/ST communities: cannot be with reference to the entire service or class/group, but should be relatable to the grade/category of posts to which the promotion is sought.
      • “Cadre” should be the unit for the purpose of collection of quantifiable data in relation to promotional posts. (B.K. Pavithra case)
    • Equality and constitutional reasonableness are basic features of the constitution: and cannot be given short shrift for achieving social justice.

    Source: IE