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Change in promotion quota for SC/STs will lead to chaos: Centre

In his written note, attorney general KK Venugopal claimed that “the whole of the country, including the public services of the states, would be thrown into disarray.”
The note was submitted in response to a clutch of petitions that have raised various legal issues on the current policy on reservation in promotion. (Mint/Pradeep Gaur)
Updated on Oct 27, 2021 04:41 AM IST
ByUtkarsh Anand, New Delhi

The Union government on Tuesday cautioned the Supreme Court that any modification in the current policy on reservations in promotion of people belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes “would only throw the entire country into chaos”.

In his written note, attorney general KK Venugopal claimed that “the whole of the country, including the public services of the states, would be thrown into disarray,” if the top court were to stress on the collection of quantifiable data by the Centre and states, as was laid down by two previous constitution bench judgments of the apex court.

From the very beginning of service rules, the AG said, a roster system has been followed to provide for reservation for SC/STs and other backward classes (OBCs), limited to 50% of the total posts. “To upset this system of arriving at adequacy of reservation would result in total chaos,” Venugopal submitted before a bench led by justice L Nageswara Rao, adding that there is no better alternative to the present methodology that involves a roster system in every cadre of the government departments to ascertain the posts required to be filled up by SC/STs. The note was submitted in response to a clutch of petitions that have raised various legal issues on the current policy on reservation in promotion, particularly pointing out that the quota benefit should apply only after quantifiable data is collected and the creamy layer has been excluded.

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In 2006, a constitution bench’s ruling in the M Nagaraj case made it incumbent upon the state to collect quantifiable data showing inadequacy of representation of a section of people in public employment in addition to maintaining overall administrative efficiency.

The aspect of quantifiable data was endorsed by another constitution bench by its 2018 ruling in the Jarnail Singh case, which also mandated the exclusion of the “creamy layer” before providing for reservation in promotions. Citing the Nagaraj judgment, the Delhi high court in 2017 quashed the 1997 memorandum, issued by the Department of Personnel and Training guiding reservation in promotion to the employees belonging to SC/STs, after noting the Union government had not collected data on the inadequacy of representation of SCs and STs.

Venugopal pointed out that if the current exercise of roster-based reservation system is held to be bad in law or in breach of the constitution bench rulings, the court would have to “necessarily” accept the proportion of the population as the right indicator for measuring inadequacy, but this would result in an “extraordinary” situation. “It should be remembered that the proportion to the population of SCs was 15%, the STs was 7.5%. Since the proportion to the population of OBCs to the total population of the country was 52% (as per the Mandal Commission report of 1980), reservation of posts in proportion to the totality of their population would defeat the limit of 50% (as laid down in the 1992 Indra Sawhney judgment),” stated AG’s note.

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