In an important judgment, the Punjab and Haryana high court on Friday set aside the Haryana government’s policy for reservation in promotion of classes 3 and 4 employees belonging to the Scheduled Castes (SC) category.
Several thousand employees are likely to be affected by this order. The court also ordered to reverse the accelerated promotions retrospectively from 2006, when the state government had first come up with the policy. However, the judgment is silent on monetary benefits availed under the policy.
The bench of justice Rajesh Bindal also issued a showcause notice to then Haryana chief secretary as to why contempt of court proceedings should not be initiated against him. The court observed that the state government issued the 2013 policy for reservation in promotions for SCs in classes 3 and 4, despite a judgment of the Supreme Court in general and of the Punjab and Haryana high court in particular on the 2006 policy.
“Reservation is necessary for transcending caste and not for perpetuating it. Reservation has to be used in a limited sense; otherwise, it will perpetuate casteism in the country. Backwardness has to be based on objective factors, whereas inadequacy has to factually exist. This is where judicial review comes in. However, whether reservation in a given case is desirable or not, as a policy, is not for us to decide as long as the parameters mentioned in Articles 16 (4) and 16 (4-A) (of the Constitution) are maintained,” the court observed in its judgment.
Referring to earlier judgments on reservation, the Supreme Court had opined that the impugned provision of Article 16 (4-A) was an enabling provision. The state was not bound to make provision for reservation for SCs and STs (Scheduled Tribes) in the matter of promotion. However, if this discretion was to be exercised, the state had to first collect quantifiable data showing backwardness of the class and inadequacy of representation of that class in public appointment in addition to compliance of Article 335 of the Constitution.
“The policy is liable to be quashed and as a consequence the benefits of accelerated promotion granted to all members of reserved categories will also fall through and they have to be reverted back to their original post. However, they may be entitled to promotion on their own turn, if admissible,” the high court stated in its judgment, further ordering that promotions be reversed and necessary action be taken within a period of three months from the date of receipt of a copy of the judgment.
The state government had submitted before the court that the 2013 policy was meant for grant of reservation in jobs as well as admission to government-aided educational/technical/ professional institutions. It also submitted that those who got promotions should not be disturbed, as with the coming into force of the new policy after the report is submitted by the committee concerned, many of the persons may still get promotion.
‘No quantifiable data’
More than 100 petitioners from the state had challenged the government order issued in February 2013, providing 20% reservation in promotion for SCs in government jobs without any quantifiable data showing backwardness.
The petitioners had also submitted that the promotions done since 2006 be also reversed as the March 2006 policy was set aside by a 2012 order of the high court, but still the benefits granted to some of the employees on the basis of the 2006 policy were not withdrawn.