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The Supreme Court today (Wednesday, September 26) ruled that states don’t have to collect quantifiable data on ‘backwardness’ for giving quota in job promotion to SC/ST employees.

A five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra and also comprising Justices Kurian Joseph, RF Nariman, SK Kaul and Indu Malhotra refused to refer the pleas against its 2006 judgment in M Nagaraj vs Union of India to a larger seven-judge bench, while ruling that the guidelines laid down by it in the case for providing reservations in job promotions were “bad in law”.

The court termed the Nagaraj verdict and the guidelines laid out in it for reservations as being contrary to the Supreme Court’s historic judgment in the Indra Sawhney case.

However, the court was silent on the other two caveats put by Nagraj judgment— collection of data on adequacy of representation of SC/ST in promotional posts and not to disturb administrative efficiency.

The SC bench had reserved its verdict on August 30 after hearing various stakeholders, including the Centre, on the matter.

The Nagaraj verdict was pronounced on October 19, 2006 by a five-judge Constitution Bench comprising Justice YK Sabharwal, KG Balakrishnan, SH Kapadia, CK Thakker and PK Balasubramanyan.

The court had said, “…State will have to show in each case the existence of compelling reasons, namely backwardness, inadequacy of representation and overall administrative efficiency, before making provision for reservation in promotion,” reported India Legal.

The Centre and various state governments had also sought reconsideration of this verdict on various grounds, including that the members of the SC and ST communities are presumed to be backward and considering their stigma of caste, they should be given reservation even in job promotions. The verdict was proving to be a hurdle to filling up lakhs of vacancies in different government departments spread across various States.

The Centre had alleged that the verdict in the M Nagraj case had put unnecessary conditions in granting quota benefits to the SC and ST employees and sought its reconsideration by a larger bench.

Attorney General KK Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, had strongly argued in favour of granting quota to SC and ST employees, saying there was a presumption of backwardness in their favour.

He said the SC and ST communities have been facing caste-based discrimination for long and the stigma of caste is attached to them despite the fact that some of them have come up.

During one of the hearings, senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, who represents those opposing quota in promotions, had told the bench that earlier there was presumption of backwardness with regard to scheduled caste and scheduled tribe communities.

There should not be quota in promotions for higher services as the presumption of backwardness of SC and ST employees “vanishes” once they join government service, he had claimed.

Dwivedi had also said quota in promotions for SC/ST may be continued for class-IV and class-III services, but should not be allowed for higher services.

Earlier, the top court had questioned the logic behind granting quota in promotions in government jobs to the kith and kin of affluent persons among the SC and ST communities who have been holding high official positions.

It had asked why the ‘creamy layer’ principle, used to exclude the affluent among other backward classes (OBCs) from enjoying the fruits of reservation, cannot be made applicable to deny quota benefits in promotion to those affluent among the SC and ST communities.

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