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SC/ST Reservation in Promotions: SC to pronounce Judgment tomorrow on re-consideration of M Nagaraj
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SC/ST Reservation in Promotions: SC to pronounce Judgment tomorrow on re-consideration of M Nagaraj

Shruti Mahajan

The Supreme Court will pronounce its verdict tomorrow on the correctness of its 2006 judgment in M Nagaraj v. Union of India which deals with reservations in promotions for SC/ST communities.

The Judgement will be delivered by a Constitution Bench comprising Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra and Justices Kurian Joseph, Rohinton Nariman, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Indu Malhotra.

In the case of M Nagaraj vs Union of India, the Supreme Court had laid down the criteria for granting reservation to the members of the SC/ST communities for the purpose of promotions.

The Court had held that while the State governments are not bound to provide for reservations for the benefit of SC/ST communities when it comes to promotions, they must fulfill certain criteria should they choose to implement accelerated promotions for the SC/ST communities.

The said policy for reservations could be formed by the State governments based on the following factors:

Backwardness of the class;

Inadequacy of representation in the Service; and

Compliance with Article 335 of the Constitution of India.

The questions of backwardness of a certain class and the extent of representation, or lack thereof, would be determined based on the quantifiable data which the State governments were required to collect and collate.

The said policy for reservation in promotion could not exceed the ceiling of 50 percent, obliterate the principle of creamy layer or extended the reservation indefinitely, according to the judgement in M Nagaraj.

“It is made clear that even if the State has compelling reasons, as stated above, the State will have to see that its 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”, the Nagaraj Bench had held.

In November last year, a Division Bench of Justices Kurian Joseph and R Banumathi had, heard a plea filed by the state of Tripura and referred it to a Constitution Bench to decide the correctness of Nagaraj.

In that order, the Bench had noted that the issue of interpretation of Article 16 – especially in the context of three apex court cases on reservations, namely, Indra Sawhney and others v. Union of India, EV Chinnaiah v. State of AP and M Nagaraj and others v. Union of India and others – was under debate.

It was further noted that there were calls to revisit M Nagaraj, given the fact that it failed to refer to Chinnaiah, which preceded it. Moreover, it was argued that the test of backwardness for the SC/ST community, as mandated by M Nagaraj, requires a relook. This, the Bench determined, could only be looked into by a Constitution Bench.

Subsequently, in July this year, the Attorney General KK Venugopal in another similar matter had told the Bench headed by the Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra that owing to the ambiguity of the Supreme Court’s stance on the issue, a lot of posts in various cadres were going vacant and the issue needed to be addressed at the earliest.

The Bench had agreed to the same and posted the case for hearing before the Constitution Bench.

During the course of the hearing before the Constitution Bench, various questions were raised that touched upon issues like how is backwardness determined, whether backwardness is obliterated once an individual reaches a certain service post, whether the creamy layer concept should be applied to the SC/ST communities also, whether accelerated promotions for a certain community alone go against the idea of equality, need for adequate representation even at top posts in service etc.

The principles laid down by the Supreme Court in three judgements were also debated – Indra Sawhney and others v. Union of India, EV Chinnaiah v. State of AP and M Nagaraj and others v. Union of India and others.