By Prarthana Mitra
Bypassing the impasse on the law of reservations for promoting Scheduled Caste (SC)/Scheduled Tribe (ST) employees in the government sector, the apex court on Tuesday bade the Centre implement the long-stalled quota in their promotion policy. The policy seeks to establish under-representation of scheduled castes and tribes while ensuring that administrative efficiency is not compromised.
Here’s what happened
Amid a raging debate on the issue regarding a special provision which provides for reservation for promotion only to SCs and STs, the top court announced that the government “is not debarred from making promotions in accordance with law.” The law referred to is the one that currently holds, as per the Supreme Court judgment in M Nagaraj & Others vs Union of India case in 2006.
Any such appointment will be “subject to further orders, pending further consideration of the matter,” the bench said. This means that all promotions will also depend on the outcome of any pending petition questioning such appointments.
Let’s back up a bit
In 2006, the apex court had itself upheld constitutional amendments for quota in promotion in government jobs while asking for data on the extent of backwardness. The apex court reiterated that, according to the Nagraj order, compelling and quantifiable proof of backwardness needs to be presented before a final decision is made.
The decision to lift the stay opens the doors for implementation of the policy. This comes as a direct response to the Centre’s plea to give them the green signal to promote their employees. However, senior advocate Shanti Bhushan and lawyer Kumar Parimal, representing anti-quota activists opposing the Centre’s plea, claimed that all interim orders needed to be passed by the same Constitution bench it had been referred to.
Why you should care
Passing the much-needed verdict to clear the air, the Supreme Court bench instructed the government not to bar reservations in job promotions until a conclusive and unanimous decision has been reached. It may be interpreted as the Supreme Court temporarily allowing the reservation to take place, while pondering on the legality of granting the same status and privileges to all members of scheduled castes and tribes, before arriving at a final decision.
A legal battle with political colours has emerged due to this contentious issue and has seen aggressive protests led by BSP and Dalit activists, leading to numerous judicial stays over the last seven years. The Centre and state governments seem overjoyed with the apex court’s latest order, as preparations to implement the quota in promotions seem to be underway.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.