- The Centre has requested the Supreme Court to provide clear guidelines for implementing reservations for promotion.
- Attorney General K K Venugopal, speaking on behalf of the Centre, stated that SC/STs have been excluded from mainstream society for many years.
The Central government requested the Supreme Court on Tuesday to provide a clear and definite ground for the Union of India and the states to implement quota in government jobs promotions to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
Attorney General K K Venugopal, representing the Centre, told a bench led by Justice L Nageswara Rao that SC/STs have been ignored for years and that “we have to introduce an equaliser (in the form of quota) in the interest of the country to give them an equal chance.”
“There will be a slew of litigation if you don’t put down a firm definitive ground that the states and union will follow. This problem of what is the principle on which reservations must be made can never be solved.”
“We won’t be able to fill the seats unless merit is the criterion, yet there is a class that has been excluded from the mainstream for generations. In such a situation, in the interest of the country and the constitution, we must introduce an equaliser, which, in my opinion, is proportional representation. That guarantees the right to equality,” Venugopal said the bench, which also included Justices Sanjiv Khanna and B R Gavai and reserved its decision on the matter.
“We need a principle on which reservations may be made,” he stated.
“How would I know when adequacy is achieved if it is left to the state? What is inadequate. That is the major issue,” he remarked.
The AG said firmly that, due to hundreds of years of oppression, SC/STs must be given an equal shot to overcome their lack of merit through affirmative action.
“This has resulted in exemptions being granted for qualifications, exceptions to marks for selections, and similarly so that they may acquire places in education and because of the nature of the work they’ve been performing for hundreds of years, such as manual scavenging, and so on. They were regarded as untouchables and were unable to compete with the rest of the populace. As a result, the reservation,” he explained.
The Supreme Court was hearing arguments on the question of reservation in promotions for employees belonging to the SCs and STs.
According to the senior law officer, the question of the appropriateness of representation began in 1950.
“What has the union of India and the states accomplished in education and employment over the previous seven decades? Your lordships must check to determine if such efforts were successful. If it is not adequate, it is the court’s responsibility to offer an alternate approach and guide a process for establishing a certain and definitive standard or yardstick.”
“These possibilities for these unfortunate people are an equaliser.” However, equalisers do not work overnight. This might take decades. As far as SCs/STs are concerned, they continue to struggle to enter the mainstream of life,” the AG stated.
Mr Venugopal, citing figures from nine states, stated that all of them have followed one idea to equalise them so that lack of talent does not prevent them from entering the mainstream.
According to him, the country’s overall percentage of backward classes is 52%.
“If you take proportion, then 74.5 per cent of reservations would have to be granted,” he explained, “but we put the cut limit at 50%.”
Mr Venugopal said that if the Supreme Court leaves the decision on the reservation to the states based on quantifiable data and sufficiency of representation, the country will be back to square one.
The Attorney General earlier remarked that it is more difficult for people from the SCs and STs to get a higher position in the group A category of jobs and that the time has come for the Apex Court to provide some strong ground for Scheduled Caste (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs), and Other Backward Classes (OBCs) to fill vacancies.
The court earlier announced that it will not reconsider its decision on awarding reservation in promotion to Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs), and that it was up to the states to decide how to implement the same.
Mr Venugopal highlighted Supreme Court precedents spanning from the 1992 Indra Sawhney verdict, often known as the Mandal Commission case, to the 2018 Jarnail Singh ruling.
The Mandal decision had ruled against quotas in promotions.
According to the law officer, before 1975, the government hired 3.5 per cent of SCs and 0.62 per cent of STs, which was the average number.
In 2008, the proportion of SCs and STs in government employment was 17.5 and 6.8 per cent, respectively, which he argued was still inadequate and justify such quotas.
On September 14, the Supreme Court stated that it would not reconsider its judgement on giving reservations in promotions to SCs and STs since it was up to the states to decide how to implement it.
Previously, Maharashtra and other states claimed that promotions had been made in unreserved categories, but that promotions in reserved categories for SC and ST employees had not been provided.
In 2018, a five-judge Constitution panel rejected to submit the 2006 M Nagraj case decision, in which the creamy layer concept was extended to SCs and STs, to a bigger seven-judge bench for reconsideration.
It also paved the door for quotas in government jobs for SCs and STs and revised the 2006 judgement so that states would not be required to “gather quantifiable facts” proving these communities’ backwardness in order to establish the quota in promotions.