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Supreme Court Decision on SC ST Reservation

Two significant rulings have come from the Supreme Court

1. Supreme Court ruled that the state governments are not bound to fill vacancies in accordance with the rules of
reservation for the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and the Other Backward Classes (OBCs).

2. Supreme Court has upheld an amendment that the Narendra Modi government had brought in 2018 to
overturn its judgment in case relating to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.


• The SC was deciding a group of appeals pertaining to the reservations to SC’s and ST’s in promotions in the posts of Assistant Engineer (Civil) in Public Works Department, Government of Uttarakhand.

• The Supreme Court refused to issue direction to the Uttarakhand state government to provide reservation to
SC/ST candidates in fulfilling vacancies holding that quota in jobs is not a fundamental right.

• “No mandamus can be issued by the court directing the state government to provide reservations.”

Article 16 (4) and 16 (4-A) empower the State to make reservations

Article 16 – Equality of opportunity in matters of public employment

1. There shall be equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the State.

2. No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, residence or any of them, be ineligible for, or discriminated against in respect of, any employment or office under the State.

3. Nothing in this article shall prevent Parliament from making any law prescribing, in regard to a class or classes of employment or appointment to an office under the Government of, or any local or other authority within, a State or Union territory, any requirement as to residence within that State or Union territory prior to such employment or appointment.

4. Nothing in this article 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.

Reservation in promotions

Court vs Govt

• Indira Sawhney case in 1992 – SC permitted reservation for the SCs and STs in promotion to continue only for a period of five years

• Govt brought the 77th CAA in 1995 to continue the reservation in promotions further.

• Article 16(4A) is a special provision which provides forreservation for promotion only to SCs and STs.

– 81st amendment – to permit the government to treat the backlog of
reserved vacancies as a separate and distinct group, to which the ceiling of 50 per cent did not apply.

– 82nd amendment – inserted a provision in Article 335 to enable states to give concessions to SC/ST candidates in promotion.

– 85th amendment – to give the benefit of consequential seniority to SC/ST candidates promoted by reservation.

The validity of all the above four amendments was challenged in the Supreme Court through various petitions clubbed together in M. Nagaraj & Others vs. Union of India & Others, mainly on the ground that these altered the Basic Structure of the Constitution.

In 2006, the Supreme Court upheld the amendments.

But the Court stipulated that the concerned state will have to show, in each case, the existence of “compelling reasons” – which include “backwardness”, “inadequacy of representation” and overall “administrative efficiency’’– before making provisions for reservation.

• The court further held that these provisions are merely enabling provisions.

• If a state government wishes to make provisions for reservation to SC/STs in promotion, the state has to collect
quantifiable data showing backwardness of the class and inadequacy of representation of that class.

• A number of High Courts, following Nagaraj, have struck down reservation in promotions after applying these

February 2020

The Supreme Court ruled,

“It is settled law that the state government cannot be directed to provide reservations for appointment in public posts. Similarly, the state is not bound to make reservation for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in matters of promotions.”

An individual does not have a fundamental right to claim reservation, and it is for the government to decide whether reservations are required in appointments and promotions.

The Supreme Court has made the reservation optional in a sense.

“If they (states) wish to exercise their discretion and make such provision, the state has to collect quantifiable data showing inadequacy of representation of that class in public services,”

• This may be interpreted as departure from the understanding with regard to reservation in jobs.

• The earlier ruling of the Supreme Court fixing the limit of reservation at 50 per cent of the total vacancies has been interpreted as a mandatory rule for the government to provide reservation for SC/ST and OBC candidates in all fresh appointments

• But in the latest judgment, the Supreme Court has interpreted Article 16 to say, “It is for the state government to decide whether reservations are required in the matter of appointment and promotions to public posts.”

• The Supreme Court held that the Constitution empowers the state to provide for reservation of seats in favour of the SC/ST candidates in matters of appointment and promotion “if in the opinion of state they are not adequately represented in the services of the state”.

Subject to Judicial Review

If the decision of the state government to provide SC/ST reservation in promotion to a particular public post is challenged, it would have to place the data and prove before the court that reservation was necessary and does not affect the efficiency of administration.

2011 Census

Dalits (SCs) account for 16.6 % of India’s population.

• Tribal people (STs) account for 8.6 %

Central Government jobs ~ 30 lakh

Representation in top level Bureaucracy as of November 2019 (Ques in parliament)

There are 82 secretary rank officers in the central government(senior most IAS officers)

Only 4 belong to scheduled castes and scheduled tribes

Joint secretary and above

SC+ ST = 9 %
OBC = 3%

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