Judgment Summary: Reservation in Promotion (Clarifications)

Reservation in Promotion

Judges: L.N. Rao J, Sanjiv Khanna J, B.R. Gavai J

The Supreme Court held that States must devise their own yardstick to collect quantifiable data demonstrating inadequacy of representation of SC/STs in public employment.

State governments had filed a group of petitions seeking clarifications on the implementation of the Supreme Court’s decision in Jarnail Singh (2018).

In 2018, the Court had introduced the principle of creamy layer exclusion, stating that the State may not grant reservations in promotion to SC/ST individuals who belong to the creamy layer of the community. The Court had also modified its earlier decision in M. Nagaraj, holding that State governments did not have to demonstrate backwardness while granting reservations in promotion. However, the State was required to demonstrate under-representation through quantifiable data before providing reservations in promotions.  

Criteria to Determine Inadequacy of Representation to be Determined by States

The SC stressed that Courts may not issue directions to the Executive with respect to spheres exclusively reserved for it by the Constitution. Criteria to determine inadequacy of representation of SC/STs in civil services must be left to the discretion of the State, who may be able to account better for local conditions. 

The Unit for Collecting Quantifiable Data is the Cadre

The Court clarified that States must use the cadre as the unit for collecting quantifiable data on inadequacy of representation. ‘Cadre’ refers to the strength of a service or part of a service sanctioned as a separate unit. The entire service must not be considered a cadre for the purpose of promotion from one post to a higher post in a different grade. States must collect quantifiable data regarding inadequacy of representation not in reference to the entire service, but with respect to the grade/category of posts to which promotion is sought.

The Court overruled its decision in B.K. Pavitra II on this point, which had approved the collection of data based on ‘groups’ rather than cadres.

Data Collected to Determine Inadequacy of Representation to be Reviewed Periodically

The Court said that the data collected to determine inadequacy of representation for the purpose of providing reservations in promotions must be reviewed periodically. The period for review must be ‘reasonable’, and is left for the Government to determine.

SC Judgment in M. Nagaraj to have Prospective Effect

Making the judgment of the Court in M. Nagaraj (2006), which validated Parliament’s decision to extend reservations for SC/STs to include reservations in promotion, effective from 1995 would have the effect of unsettling the seniority of individuals over a long period of time.

The Court held that its decision in M. Nagaraj would have prospective effect.