- The Supreme Court allowed the Union of India to proceed with the reservation in favour of SC/ST employees “as per the law” in matters of promotion, until the final disposal of the controversy by the constitution bench.
- Government of India filed special leave petition (SLP) in Supreme Court complaining that promotions are at a “standstill” because of verdicts by the High Courts of Delhi, Bombay, and Punjab & Haryana.
- Responding to the government’s complaint, Supreme Court said that the government was not debarred from making promotions so long as they were in accordance with the law.
- While the court did not specify which law it was referring to, the law that currently applies is the one laid down by the five-judge Bench in M Nagaraj & Others vs Union Of India & Others (2006).
Background of Nagaraj case:
Article 16, Clause 4A:
- The quotas in promotions for SCs and STs had been discontinued after the Indra Sawhney and Others vs Union of India and Others judgment in 1992 (Mandal case).
- In this judgement, the Supreme Court observed that reservation under Article 16(4) — which allows the state to make provisions for reservation of appointments or posts in favour of any backward class of citizens — did not apply to promotions.
- This affected SC and ST employees and in order to ensure that reservations in promotions continued, Clause 4A was introduced as per which State can make any provision for reservation in matters of promotion if SC/STs are adequately represented in the services.
- It was inserted through the Constitution (Seventy-Seventh Amendment) Act, 1995.
Article 16, Clause 4B:
- Clause 4B was inserted to ensure that while calculating the quota for a particular year — capped at 50% by Indra Sawhney — the unfilled or ‘carried forward’ quota from the earlier year was not clubbed with the regular quota of that year.
- It was inserted through the Constitution (Eighty-First Amendment) Act, 2000.
Article-335: Relaxation in marks
- Earlier the Supreme Court had, in both Indra Sawhney and S Vinod Kumar And Anr vs Union Of India And Ors (1996), ruled that relaxation of qualifying marks and standards of evaluation for reservation in promotion were not permissible under Article 16(4) in view of the command contained in Article 335.
- To restore the relaxations, the 82nd Amendment added a provision to Article 335, allowing “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”.
Article-16, Clause-4A: Seniority
- The SC judgments in Union Of India And Ors Etc vs Virpal Singh Chauhan Etc (1995) and Ajit Singh Januja & Ors vs State Of Punjab & Ors (1996) had affected the interests of SC/ST employees in the matter of seniority on promotion to the next higher grade.
- The 85th Amendment introduced the words “with consequential seniority” after “in matters of promotion” in Article 16(4A).
The Nagaraj case (2006)
Questions before Supreme Court
- The court dealt with a challenge to constitutional amendments aimed at nullifying the impact of judgments including that in the famous Mandal case, on reservations in promotions for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe employees.
- The petition challenged the constitutional validity of:
- The Constitution (Seventy-Seventh Amendment) Act, 1995, which inserted Clause 4A in Article 16 (equality of opportunity in matters of public employment);
- The Constitution (Eighty-First Amendment) Act, 2000, which inserted Clause 4B in Article 16;
- The Constitution (Eighty-Second Amendment) Act, 2000, which inserted a proviso to Article 335 (claims of SCs and STs to services and posts); and
- The Constitution (Eighty-Fifth Amendment) Act, 2001, which changed the wording of Article 16(4A).
- The petitioners argued that the four amendments were aimed at reversing the judgments in Indra Sawhney and other cases, that Parliament had arrogated to itself judicial powers, and had, therefore, violated the basic structure of the Constitution.
The Nagaraj judgment
- The court upheld the constitutional validity of the 77th, 81st, 82nd, and 85th Amendments.
- It, however, ruled that if the state wished to exercise their discretion and make provisions (for reservation in promotions for SCs/STs), the State has to collect quantifiable data showing backwardness of the class and inadequacy of representation of that class in public employment in addition to compliance of Article 335.
- Also even if the State has compelling reasons, it will have to see that its reservation provision does not breach the ceiling-limit of 50% or obliterate the creamy layer or extend the reservation indefinitely.