The government on Wednesday stated that even after 75 years of independence of the country, it is the harsh reality that the members of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes are struggling to join the higher posts in the services as compared to the forward castes.
Attorney General K. K. Venugopal, while appearing before the bench consisting of Justice L. Nageswara Rao, Justice Sanjiv Khanna, and Justice B. R. Gavai, said that it is more difficult for the people of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes to get into the higher posts such Group A and B. The Attorney General also stated that the time has come for the Court to draw the basis for reservation in promoting the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes candidates to fill up the existing vacancies in the higher posts.
During the proceedings, the court asked for the production of the records consisting of the representation of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes among Group A, Group B, and Group C, respectively. The data presented by the government stated that the total number of the member of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in Group A, Group B and Group C categories among 19 ministries is 15.34% and 6.18% respectively.
In the first instance, it may appear to be on par with the expected stipulated reservation of 15% and 7.5% for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, respectively. However, when analyzed, it appeared a different picture altogether. The bench brought some light in this matter and observed that though the efforts of the government resulted in nearly adequate representation in the Group B and Group C categories, there has not been an emphasis on improving the representation of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes category in Group A jobs, which is not fair.
Judicial Pronouncement Regarding the Issue of Reservation
Indra Sawhney v Union of India
This is one of the landmark cases delivered by the Apex Court in reservation. It was in this case, where the top court put the upper ceiling limit of 50% for the reservation of all the socially and educationally backward classes categories including Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. The court also held that reservation should be provided at the time of entry into government service but not in promotion matters.
M. Nagaraj v Union of India
In this case, the court held that reservation on promotion is the prerogative of the State. The State is not bound to make such reservations in promotions. Reservations in promotions cannot be claimed as a matter of right. The court further clarified that reservations in promotions is not a fundamental right but merely an enabling right. Therefore, the government can provide for such an arrangement as it deems fit, and it can be revoked if the state believes the representation is adequate in the proportion of the population.
Jarnail Singh v Lachhmi Narain Gupta
In this matter, the court held that while reviewing the arrangement for reservation in promotion, the states do not require to collect the quantifiable data in order to find out how is the level of backwardness among reserved posts.
Constitutional Provisions for Reservation
Article 16 of the Constitution of India deals with equality of opportunity in matters of public employment.
(1) There shall be equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the State.
(2) No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, residence, or any of them, be ineligible for, or discriminated against in respect of, any employment or office under the State.
(3) Nothing in this article shall prevent Parliament from making any law prescribing, in regard to a class or classes of employment or appointment to an office under the Government of, or any local or other authority within, a State or Union territory, any requirement as to residence within that State or Union territory] prior to such employment or appointment.
(4) Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any provision for the reservation of appointments or posts in favour of any backward class of citizens which, in the opinion of the State, is not adequately represented in the services under the State.
(4A) Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any provision for reservation in matters of promotion, with consequential seniority, to any class] or classes of posts in the services under the State in favour of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes which, in the opinion of the State, are not adequately represented in the services under the State.
(4B) Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from considering any unfilled vacancies of a year which are reserved for being filled up in that year in accordance with any provision for reservation made under clause (4) or clause (4A) as a separate class of vacancies to be filled up in any succeeding year or years and such class of vacancies shall not be considered together with the vacancies of the year in which they are being filled up for determining the ceiling of fifty percent reservation on total number of vacancies of that year.
(5) Nothing in this article shall affect the operation of any law which provides that the incumbent of an office in connection with the affairs of any religious or denominational institution or any member of the governing body thereof shall be a person professing a particular religion or belonging to a particular denomination.
(6) Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any provision for the reservation of appointments or posts in favor of any economically weaker sections of citizens other than the classes mentioned in clause (4), in addition to the existing reservation and subject to a maximum of ten percent of the posts in each category.
Reservation in India has been a controversial matter since its inception. It is no doubt that the impact it has created is unmatched. As a result, there has been an attempt to widen the ambit of Article 16 so that more and more sections of society can be accommodated. The government also aims to improve the representation of SCs & STs in the Group A jobs and hence in order to pave the way out, has asked the Apex Court to set quota norms for promotion that may be acceptable to the people at large.