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'States to collect data': Supreme Court refuses to dilute criteria on reservation in promotion to SCs/STs

The Supreme Court said that state governments are obligated to collect quantifiable data, on inadequacy of representation, before granting reservation in promotion to Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST) employees in government jobs.

PTI Reported by: PTI
New Delhi Published on: January 28, 2022 13:43 IST
Supreme Court of India 
Image Source : PTI (FILE)

Supreme Court of India 

The Supreme Court on Friday refused to "lay down any yardstick" for granting reservation in promotion to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in government jobs. A three-judge bench headed by Justice Nageswara Rao said states are obligated to collect data on inadequacy of representation of SCs/STs.

"On the basis of arguments, we have divided submission into six points. One is yardstick. In the light of Jarnail Singh and Nagaraj, we have said we cannot lay down any yardstick. With respect to the unit for collecting quantifiable data, we have said that the State is obligated to collect quantifiable data," said the bench, also comprising Justices Sanjiv Khanna and BR Gavai.

The apex court said the collection of information regarding inadequacy of representation of SCs/STs cannot be with reference to the entire service or class but it should be relatable to grade/category of posts to which promotion is sought.

"Cadre, which should be the unit for collection of quantifiable data in relation to promotional posts, would be meaningless if data pertaining to the representation of SC/STs is with reference to the entire service," the bench said.

With regard to proportionate representation and test of adequacy, the top court said it has not gone into this aspect and it has left it to the states to assess inadequacy of representation of SCs/STs in promotion of post by taking into account relevant factors.

The apex court had reserved its verdict on October 26, 2021. The Centre had earlier asked the court to lay down a definite and decisive ground for the Union of India and the states to implement reservation in promotions to SCs and STs in government jobs. Attorney General K K Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, had submitted that SC/STs have been sidelined from the mainstream for years and "we have to bring an equaliser (in form of reservation) in the interest of the country to give them an equal chance".

"If you don't lay down a definite decisive ground that the states and union will follow, there'll be a multitude of litigations. There will never be an end to this issue as to what is the principle on which reservation has to be made," AG had said.

The bench had mentioned earlier that it would not reopen its decision on the issue of the grant of reservation in promotion to SCs and STs and said it was for the states to decide how they are going to implement the same.

Venugopal had referred to the apex court judgements right from the Indra Sawhney verdict of 1992, popularly known as the Mandal Commission case to the Jarnail Singh verdict of 2018. The Mandal judgement had ruled out quota in promotions.

Venugopal had said that till 1975, 3.5 per cent SCs and 0.62 per cent of STs were in government employment and this is the average figure. In 2008, the figure of SCs and STs in government employment rose to 17.5 and 6.8 per cent respectively, which are still low and justified such quota, he had said.

In 2018, a five-judge Constitution bench had refused to refer to the 2006 judgement in the M Nagraj case, in which the creamy layer concept was extended to the SCs and STs to a larger seven-judge bench for reconsideration. It had also paved the way for a grant of quota for promotions in the government jobs to SCs and STs and had modified the 2006 judgement to the extent that the states will not be required to "collect quantifiable data" reflecting the backwardness among these communities to justify the quota in promotions.

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