“There is no fundamental right which inheres in an individual to claim reservation in promotions," a Supreme Court bench said on Friday.

SC ruling on reservations in job promotions creates row Bhim Army Chief moves courtPTI (file)
news Reservation Tuesday, February 11, 2020 - 17:23

“There is no fundamental right to claim quota in reservations.” This statement made by the Supreme Court on Friday has created much furore, with activists raising objections and the opposition training their guns on the Centre. 

On Tuesday, Bhim Army Chief Chandra Shekhar Azad filed a review plea in the Supreme Court seeking a reversal of its February 7 verdict. His review plea stated that the judgement violates Article 16 (1) (There shall be equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the State) and Article 14 (4) (Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any provision for the reservation of appointments or posts in favor of any backward class of citizens) of the Constitution.

What the court said

The apex court was hearing pleas regarding Uttarakhand government's September 5, 2012 decision to fill up all posts in public services in the state without providing reservations to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. The government's decision was challenged in the Uttarakhand High Court, which struck it down. The High Court asked the state to first collect quantifiable data connected with the representation of SCs/STs, and decide on the matter. The High Court also gave another direction that all future vacancies that are to be filled up by promotion in the posts of assistant engineer, should only be from the members of SCs and STs. On Friday, the apex court set aside these directions.

"In view of the law laid down by this court, there is no doubt that the state government is not bound to make reservations. There is no fundamental right which inheres in an individual to claim reservation in promotions," a bench of justices L Nageswara Rao and Hemant Gupta said.

"No mandamus can be issued by the court directing the state government to provide reservations," the bench said in its verdict.

Dealing with the appeals against the high court verdict, the top court noted, "It is settled law that the state government cannot be directed to provide reservations for appointment in public posts. Similarly, the state is not bound to make reservation for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in matters of promotions."

"However, if they (state) wish to exercise their discretion and make such provision, the state has to collect quantifiable data showing inadequacy of representation of that class in public services," the bench said.

While upholding the Uttarakhand government's September 2012 notification, the apex court said that as the government is not bound to provide reservation in promotions, the high court should not have declared the state's decision as illegal.

Referring to constitutional provision about reservation, the bench said, "It is for the state government to decide whether reservations are required in the matter of appointment and promotions to public posts."

It noted that Article 16 (4) and 16 (4-A) of the Constitution empowers the state to keep reservation in matters of appointment and promotion in favour of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes "if in the opinion of state they are not adequately represented in the services of the state".

"The language in clauses (4) and (4-A) of Article 16 is clear, according to which, the inadequacy of representation is a matter within the subjective satisfaction of the state," the bench said, adding, "All that is required is that there must be some material on the basis of which the opinion is formed." 

Opposition seeks review plea

The furore over the ruling reached the Parliament on Monday, with Opposition parties demanding that the Centre file a plea in the Supreme Court seeking a review of the judgement. On Monday afternoon, the Centre told the Parliament that the Government of India was not a party in the case and it was never ever asked to give any undertaking on it.

Thawar Chand Gehlot, Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment, told the Lok Sabha that the top court order pertains to a 2012 decision of the previous Congress government in Uttarakhand and asserted that the central government is "committed" and "dedicated" to reservation for SCs, STs and OBCs.

Gehlot made it clear that the Centre was not asked to file an affidavit in the matter and said the issue is being discussed in the government at the "highest level" and it will take "appropriate steps" in the matter.

Earlier, as soon as the Question Hour started, Opposition members led by Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury sought to raise the issue. He was also joined by members from other parties, including the DMK. Leaders of several parties, including LJP, TMC, DMK, BSP Apna Dal, IUML, CPI (M) and the NCP asked the government to immediately address the matter and file a review plea in the court. Some leaders also pointed out that the reason for such ruling is a low representation of SC/ST and OBCs in the judiciary.

Congress MP Rahul Gandhi also launched a scathing attack on the BJP and the RSS on the issue, stating the Congress will not let it happen and that the Narendra Modi-led government is attacking all the institutions in the country.

"The reservation is hurting the RSS and the BJP. They want to erase it. Every morning when they wake up it irritates them. Whatever the fantasy, the RSS/BJP live in, we will not allow it to happen,” the Congress leader said. "The issue is that the RSS and the BJP cannot live with the idea that Dalits, tribals and OBCs have reservation. This irritates them and they have tried to erase them,” he added.

 

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