New Delhi: The Supreme Court Friday reiterated that collection of data to determine the inadequacy of representation of Scheduled Castes (SCs)/Scheduled Tribes (STs) in government jobs is necessary to grant reservation in promotions.
However, the top court said collection of data need not be for the entire service, as was held in a previous top court judgment, but only for the cadre in which promotions have to be made.
A three-judge bench of justices L.N. Rao, Sanjiv Khanna and B.R. Gavai gave this verdict on a batch of petitions that urged the apex court to clarify norms for reservation in promotions.
The petitioners, including a few states and the central government, had sought more clarity on several issues, mainly on how the adequacy of representation must be determined — whether in proportion to the population percentage of different castes, and whether there should be reservation in higher posts in A and B categories of government service.
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What the Centre argued
During the hearing, the Centre had suggested diluting the criteria for quota in promotion by doing away with the requirement of quantifiable data to establish inadequacy of representation of SCs/STs.
It had told the bench that even after around 75 years of independence, those belonging to SCs and STs have not been brought to the same level of merit as the forward classes.
Attorney General K.K. Venugopal had submitted that it is more difficult for those belonging to the SCs and STs to get a higher post in group A category of jobs and time has come when the apex court should give some concrete basis for SCs, STs, and Other Backward Classes (OBCs) to fill up vacancies.
What the court said
The bench refused to accept the Centre’s contention on the issue of data. But it even declined to lay down any yardstick to determine inadequacy of representation, asking the states and central government to fix it.
In respect of the unit for collecting the quantifiable data, the court said “state is obligated to collect quantifiable data regarding inadequate representation of SCs/STs”.
However, this information, it clarified, cannot be with reference to the entire service or class, but should be relatable to the grade, category of posts for which promotion is sought.
With this observation, the bench held a 2019 SC judgment, in which a two-judge bench had approved the collection of data on inadequacy of representation of SCs/STs on the basis of groups and not cadre, as contrary to the law.
The judgment Friday primarily laid down the principle for providing quota in promotion. However, the order left it to the states to assess the inadequacy of representation of SC/ST to promotional posts taking into account relevant factors.
The bench also said that a review should be conducted regarding the data for the purpose of determining the inadequacy of representation and providing reservation in promotion, but once again left it to the government to decide the time period for such a review. In the court’s opinion, such a time period should be reasonable.
The court has fixed 24 February to take up individual matters that would now be decided on the basis of the judgment pronounced Friday.
(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)
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Source: The Print