Age relaxation for SC/ST as an incident of reservation under Article 16: What SC held
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Age relaxation for SC/ST as an incident of reservation under Article 16: What SC held

Murali Krishnan

The Supreme Court has reiterated that when a relaxed standard as regards age limit, experience, qualification is applied in selecting a candidate for SC/ST, SEBC category, then a candidate of such category selected in the said manner, shall have to be considered only against the reserved post. Such a candidate would be deemed as unavailable for consideration against unreserved posts.

The judgment was passed by a Bench of Justices S Abdul Nazeer and Indira Banerjee in an appeal against the decision of a Division Bench of Gujarat High Court.

The appellant, in this case, had applied in the category of Socially and Economically Backward classes. He had availed age relaxation applicable to the said reserved category. He passed both the preliminary examination and main written examination.

While preparing the merit list, he was considered in the reserved category and not General category. It was his case that he should be considered in the General category.

His argument was that relaxation/concession in age granted to the candidates at the initial stage was only to enable a candidate belonging to the reserved category. It did not grant him/her any preferential advantage in the matter of selection and, therefore, cannot be treated as an incident of reservation under Article 16(4) of the  Constitution of India.

He contended that a concession in the age in the matter of selection to a post which cannot be treated as an incident of reservation. Therefore, relaxation in age at the initial qualifying stage would not fall foul of these circulars.

It was his argument that preliminary test is merely to declare a candidate qualified for appearing in the written examination. Examination and interview performance alone would be the criteria for his/her selection for the appointment to the post. Therefore, relaxation at the stage of the preliminary test would not amount to grant of benefit of reservation for selection.

The Gujarat Public Service Commission opposed the same submitting that a candidate who has availed of age relaxation in the selection process as a result of belonging to a reserved category cannot, thereafter, seek to be accommodated in general category seats.

It was argued that the relaxation in age granted at the initial stage in the instant case, was necessarily an incident of reservation under Article 16(4) of the Constitution of India.

The Court after considering the arguments proceeded to place reliance on two circulars issued by the Gujarat government, one in 2000 and the other in 2004.

The Court held that as per the said circulars, a candidate who has availed of age relaxation in the selection process as a result of belonging to a reserved category cannot, thereafter, seek to be accommodated in or migrated to the general category seats.

The Court also stated that Article 16(4) of the Constitution is an enabling provision empowering the State to make any provision or 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 service under the State.

It is purely a matter of discretion of the State Government to formulate a policy for concession,   exemption, preference or relaxation either conditionally or unconditionally in favour of the backward classes of citizens. The reservation being the enabling provision, the manner and the extent to which reservation is provided has to be spelled out from the orders issued by the Government from time to time, the Supreme Court made it clear.

In the instant case, the State Government had framed a policy for the grant of reservation in favour of SC/ST and OBC by the Circulars dated January 21, 2000, and July 23, 2004. The State Government had clarified that when a relaxed standard is applied in selecting a candidate for SC/ST, SEBC category in the age limit, experience, qualification, permitting number of chances in the written examination etc., then a candidate of such category selected in the said manner, shall have to be considered only against his/her reserved post. Such a candidate would be deemed as unavailable for consideration against unreserved post.

Age relaxation granted to the candidates belonging to SC/ST and SEBC category in the instant case is an incident of reservation under Article 16(4) of the Constitution of India, the Court concluded.

It, therefore, dismissed the appeal.

[Read Judgment]

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