Minority Issues – SC, ST, Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.

States must decide on SC/ST quota in promotions: Supreme Court


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nagraj Case

Mains level : Quota in Promotions

The Supreme Court has refused to lay down the criteria for determining the inadequacy of representation for granting reservation in promotions for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe candidates in government jobs.

What did the court held?

  • The court stuck firm by the decisions of its Constitution Benches in the Jarnail Singh and M. Nagaraj case that the question of adequate representation of SC/ST communities ought to be left to the respective States to determine.
  • It held ‘cadre’, and not class or group or the entire service, as the unit for the purpose of collection of quantifiable data for giving promotion quotas.

Why such decision?

  • Determination of inadequate representation depends upon myriad factors of states which this Court cannot envisage.
  • Laying down of criteria for determining the inadequacy of representation would result in curtailing the discretion given to the State governments.

Quota in Promotions: A timeline

What was the case?

  • The Union government has been pressing for reservation in promotion proportionate to the population of SCs and STs as per a 1995 judgment by the top court in the RK Sabharwal case.
  • It wants it to be left open to the Centre and states to decide on promotional avenues for SCs and STs.
  • It claims that the condition regarding the collection of quantifiable data to show the inadequacy of representation of SCs/STs is “vague”.
  • Advocates representing the general category have contended that the reservation cannot be for an indefinite period and that it must stop as soon as the upper ceiling has been reached.
  • Further, they have emphasized that reservation in promotion should be cadre-based only after quantifiable data is collected and the creamy layer has been excluded.

Defying the need for quantifiable data

  • Attorney General sought to convince the court that the roster system, based on the proportionate population of SCs/STs, has been working quite well in all government departments.
  • The condition of collecting quantifiable data on inadequacy of representation of SCs/STs may not be required at all.
  • He urged that there is no need to verify any further or collect quantifiable data after the roster system.

What is the Nagraj Case?

  • Article 16(4A) of Indian Constitution allows reservations to SCs and STs in promotions, as long as the government believes that they are not adequately represented in government services.
  • In 2006, a Constitution bench’s ruling in the M Nagaraj case made it incumbent upon the state to collect quantifiable data showing inadequacy of representation in public employment.
  • This was to be done in addition to maintaining overall administrative efficiency.

Related amendments

  • 77th Amendment: It introduced Clause 4A to the Constitution, empowering the state to make provisions for reservation in matters of promotion to SC/ST employees if the state feels they are not adequately represented.
  • 81st Amendment: It introduced Clause 4B, which says unfilled SC/ST quota of a particular year, when carried forward to the next year, will be treated separately and not clubbed with the regular vacancies of that year to find out whether the total quota has breached the 50% limit set by the Supreme Court.
  • 82nd Amendment: It inserted a proviso at the end of Article 335 to enable the state to make any provision for SC/STs “for relaxation in qualifying marks in any examination or lowering the standards of evaluation, for reservation in matters of promotion to any class or classes of services or posts in connection with the affairs of the Union or of a State”.
  • 85th Amendment: It said reservation in the promotion can be applied with consequential seniority for the SC/ST employee.

Why such demand for quotas in promotion?

  • The Attorney General has said that it is tough for a member of the SC/ST to reach the ‘Group A’ category jobs.
  • The time has come for the apex court to firm up and draw the basis for reservation in promotions for SC/ST candidates to fill up vacancies in top jobs.
  • The Bench referred to records filed before it to note that there was low representation of SC/ST category in Group A jobs.
  • Instead of improving the situation in the Group A ranks, the court said, efforts are on to ensure adequate representation in Groups B and C.
  • This was not fair, it remarked.


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