The Supreme Court on Friday said laying down a criteria for determining the inadequacy of representation of Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) would result in curtailing the discretion given to the state governments.
A bench of Justices L. Nageswara Rao, Sanjiv Khanna, and B.R. Gavai said: “We are of the opinion that no yardstick can be laid down by this Court for determining the adequacy of representation of SCs and STs in promotional posts for the purpose of providing reservation.”
Attorney General K.K. Venugopal’s stand that court has to lay down the yardstick for measuring adequacy of representation did not yield a favourable result, as the court said that the Jarnail Singh (2018) judgment had found it befitting for states to have the liberty to evaluate the representation of SCs and STs in public employment.
Justice Rao, who authored the judgment on behalf of the bench, said laying down criteria for determining the inadequacy of representation would result in curtailing the discretion given to the state governments.
“In addition, the prevailing local conditions, which may require to be factored in, might not be uniform,” he said.
The bench noted that in M. Nagaraj (2006) judgment, the top court made it clear that the validity of law made by the state governments providing reservation in promotions should be decided on a case-to-case basis for the purpose of establishing whether the inadequacy of representation is supported by quantifiable data.
“Data collected to determine inadequacy of representation needs to be reviewed periodically. The period for review should be reasonable and is left to the Government to set out,” it said.
The bench emphasised that before providing for reservation in promotions to a cadre, the state is obligated to collect quantifiable data regarding inadequacy of representation of SCs and STs.
“Collection of information regarding inadequacy of representation of SCs and STs cannot be with reference to the entire service or ‘class/group’ but it should be relatable to the grade/category of posts to which promotion is sought. Cadre, which should be the unit for the purpose of collection of quantifiable data in relation to the promotional post(s), would be meaningless if data pertaining to representation of SCs and STs is with reference to the entire service,” it added.
The bench added that determination of inadequate representation of SCs and STs in services under a state is left to the discretion of the state government, as the determination depends upon myriad factors which the court cannot envisage.
The Central government had asked the apex court to lay down a definite and decisive ground for it and the states to implement reservation in promotions to SCs and STs in government jobs. Several states had moved the apex court, as many high courts had struck down the provisions providing reservation in promotion along with an application seeking clarification in the Jarnail Singh case. After hearing detailed arguments in the matter, the top court in October last year had reserved the judgment.
The top court said the Nagaraj judgment — which laid down conditions like collections of quantifiable data, adequacy of representation, and overall impact on efficiency of administration — will have prospective effect.
It also declared the B.K. Pavitra II judgment in 2019, is contrary to law laid down in judgments in Nagaraj case and in Jarnail Singh case. This judgement allowed collection of data on the basis of group and not on cadre.
The bench did not accept the contention that a major share of quota for members of SCs and STs, often reaches select few within these categories. “We are not inclined to express any view on discontinuation of reservations in totality, which is completely within the domain of the legislature and the executive,” it said.
The top court has scheduled the matter for further hearing on February 24, in connection with pleas by different states and Centre against the decision of various high courts quashing the decision on reservation in promotion.