The state is not duty-bound to give reservation in promotion to Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe employees, the Supreme Court said on Friday.
A bench of justices Dipak Misra and Prafulla C Pant said courts can’t issue directions to the government to collect data regarding these groups’ alleged under-representation in various services to enable them to claim quota benefits. After analysing a series of verdicts on reservation in promotion, it said any such order would amount to entering into the domain of the legislature and the executive.
“Be it clearly stated, the courts do not formulate any policy, remain away from making anything that would amount to legislation, rules and regulation or policy relating to reservation,” the bench said, dismissing a batch of petitions on the politically sensitive matter.
“It has been clearly laid down that the State is not bound to make reservation for SCs/STs in matters of promotion. However, if the State wishes to exercise the discretion and make such provision, it has to collect quantifiable data showing backwardness of the class and inadequacy of representation of that class in public employment in addition to compliance with Article 335,” the SC said.
According to Article 335 of the Constitution, the claims of SC and ST members for appointments in government services have to be taken into consideration consistently with the maintenance of efficiency of administration.
The petitioners had sought a direction to the Uttar Pradesh government to conduct a survey to collect necessary qualitative data regarding representation of SCs and STs in services for grant of reservation in promotion to them.
But the top court did not agree. “The courts can test the validity of the same (a policy or a law) when they are challenged. The court cannot direct for making legislation or for that matter any kind of sub-ordinate legislation,” the bench emphasised.
A constitution bench verdict in the M Nagraj case in 2006 said Article 16(4-A) was only an enabling provision which gave freedom to the state to provide for reservation in matters of promotion to SC and ST employees. It said the provision could be enforced only after two conditions – “backwardness” and “inadequacy of representation” – were met.
Since “backwardness” and “inadequacy of representation” cannot be determined without a survey, the petitioners wanted the SC to direct the UP government to conduct such a survey and collect data for taking a decision regarding reservation in promotion and consequential fixing of seniority of SC and ST employees.
But the top court rejected the petition, saying, “To issue a mandamus to collect the data would (be) tantamount to asking the authorities whether there is ample data to frame a rule or regulation. This will be in a way, entering into the domain of legislation, for it is a step towards commanding to frame a legislation or a delegated legislation for reservation.”
The issue of quota in promotions has been a politically volatile issue and the Supreme Court in the Nagraj case said the State has to also keep in mind the efficiency of administration as required under Article 335 of the Constitution.
On the basis of the SC verdict in the Nagraj case, the Allahabad high court in 2011 struck down the then Mayawati government’s decision to provide quota in promotions for SCs/STs in Uttar Pradesh. The Supreme Court, on April 28, 2012 upheld the verdict. Since then it has delivered several verdicts on petitions coming from different states rejecting claims for quota in promotions.
BSP supremo Mayawati and many other Dalit leaders have been demanding a constitutional amendment to give benefit of quota in promotions to SC and ST employees.
But in the absence of fresh qualitative data regarding “backwardness” and “inadequacy of representation” of SCs and STs in government services, any constitutional amendment might meet the same fate.