Civil Appeal No. 629 of 2022
Jarnail Singh Vs Lachhmi Narain Gupta
Date of Order:
January 28th 2022
Justice Dipak Misra, Justice SK Kaul, Justice Kurian Joseph, Justice RF Nariman and Justice Indu Malhotra
Petitioner- Jarnail Singh
Respondent- Lachhmi Narain Gupta
The instant case reviewed the constitutional validity of the judgment given in M. Nagaraj v. Union of India in 2006. The bench was supposed to check its validity with reference to Article 16(4) of the Constitution, regarding the provision of reservations in government jobs to those belonging to the backward communities of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities.
Article 16(4), Constitution of India- This article provides that nothing shall prevent the State from making any provision for the reservation of appointments or posts in favor of any backward class of citizens that are not adequately represented in the services under the state.
Article 142, Constitution of India- The article provides discretionary power to the Supreme Court stating that in the exercise of its jurisdiction, it may pass such decrees or make such orders as is necessary for doing complete justice in any cause or matter pending before it.
- The matter reached the Supreme Court after various High Courts struck down the Central and State Governments' policy of reservation for promotions for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, citing the Supreme Court's decision in M. Nagaraj v. Union of India[(2006) 8 SCC 212] in 2006.
- In the M. Nagaraj Case, 2006, the court recognized the Government's authority to allow for reservation in promotions, as embodied in Article 16 (4A) of the Indian Constitution. However, in doing so, it imposed a number of constraints on the use of such power including:
- The conditions for gathering "quantifiable facts" demonstrating the class's backwardness,
- The inadequacy of representation of that class in public employment, and
- Assuring that administrative efficiency was not jeopardized.
- The obligation of obtaining quantifiable evidence demonstrating the backwardness of SCs and STs was abolished in the 2018 judgement of Jarnail Singh v. Lachhmi Narain Gupta.
- The necessity to collect quantitative data demonstrating the insufficiency of representation of SCs and STs in public employment, on the other hand, persisted.
- Multiple High Courts throughout the nation knocked down policies of reservation in promotion formulated by the Centre and States due to non-compliance with this precondition which led to the current case.
- What is the yardstick by which, according to M.Nagaraj (supra), one would arrive at quantifiable data showing inadequacy of representation of SCs and STs in public employment?
- What is the unit with respect to which quantifiable data showing inadequacy of representation is required to be collected?
- Whether proportion of the population of SCs and STs to the population of India should be taken to be the test for determining adequacy of representation in promotional posts for the purposes of Article 16(4-A)?
- Should there be a time period for reviewing inadequacy of representation?
- Whether the judgment in M. Nagaraj (supra) can be said to operate prospectively?
- Whether quantifiable data showing inadequacy of representation can be collected on the basis of sampling methods, as held by this Court in B.K.Pavitra &Ors. v. Union of India & Ors.?
ARGUMENTS BY THE PETITIONER
- The learned Attorney General argued that the court did not indicate any test for determining adequacy of representation in service in M. Nagaraj. He submitted that it is important to decide the yardstick applicable for arriving at quantifiable data showing inadequacy of representation of SCs and STs to avoid multiple litigations.
- The court was urged to hold that the proportion of SCs and STs to the population of India should be the test for determining inadequacy of representation in promotional posts.
- It was submitted that a review of these matters should be conducted every 10 years.
ARGUMENTS BY THE RESPONDENTS
- It was argued that it is well-established that it is neither legal nor proper for the Courts to issue directions or advisory sermons to the executive in respect of the sphere which is exclusively within their domain under the Constitution. Reliance was placed on Asif Uttar Pradesh Power Corporation Limited v. Rajesh Kumar & Ors. [(2012) 7 SCC]
- It was averred that determination of inadequate representation of SCs and STs in services under a State should be left to the discretion of the State, as the determination depends upon myriad factors which this Court cannot envisage.
- Moreover, it was reiterated that in M. Nagaraj it was made clear that the validity of law made by the State Governments providing reservation in promotions shall be decided on a case-to-case basis for the purpose of establishing whether the inadequacy of representation is supported by quantifiable data.
- The respondents objected to the contention to declare the law laid down by M. Nagaraj as having prospective operation. They submitted that relief could be molded in exercise of the power under Article 142 of the Constitution.
1) YARDSTICK FOR ARRIVING AT QUANTIFIABLE DATA
- The court was of the opinion that no yardstick can be laid down by this Court for determining the adequacy of representation of SCs and STs in promotional posts for the purpose of providing reservation.
- The court opined that laying down criteria for determining the inadequacy of representation would result in curtailing the discretion given to the State Governments. In addition, the prevailing local conditions, which may require to be factored in, might not be uniform.
2) UNIT FOR COLLECTING QUANTIFIABLE DATA
- The Court stated unequivocally that a unit for collection is to be the 'cadre.'
- Cadre was described as "the grade/category of jobs to which promotion is sought."
- It also divided 'cadres' from Classes/Groups such as Class I, Class II, and so on, or Group A, Group B, and so on, on the basis of which services are generally arranged at the Centre and in the States.
3) PROPORTIONATE REPRESENTATION AS A TEST OF ADEQUACY
- The Court found no fault with M. Nagaraj regarding the test for determining the adequacy of representation in promotional posts in the State.
- It held that it was for the State to assess the inadequacy of representation of SCs and STs in promotional posts, by taking into account relevant factors.
4) TIME PERIOD FOR REVIEW
- The bench was of the opinion that data collected to determine inadequacy of representation for the purpose of providing reservation in promotions needed to be reviewed periodically.
- The period for review should be reasonable and was left to the Government to set out.
5) PROSPECTIVE OPERATION OF THE JUDGMENT IN M. NAGARAJ
- The court stated that the conditions outlined in the 2006 decision by the Supreme Court would have "prospective effect” implying that promotions made prior to 2006 that did not meet the court's requirements will not be overturned.
- This was because the court believed that making the principles laid down in M. Nagaraj effective from the year 1995 would be detrimental to the interests of a number of civil servants and would have an effect of unsettling the seniority of individuals over a long period of time.
6) QUANTIFIABLE DATA AND SAMPLING METHOD
- The court held that the unit for collection of quantifiable data is cadre, and not services as has been held in B.K. Pavitra II.
- It further held that the State should justify reservation in promotions with respect to the cadre to which promotion is made. The court set aside its earlier judgment in the B.K. Pavithra case.
- The court stood steadfast in its rulings in the Jarnail Singh and M. Nagaraj judgments that the issue of adequate representation of a SC/ST community should be left to the respective states to decide.
- A review of the data was required in order to determine the lack of representation in promotions.
- The court delegated to the Union government the task of determining a "reasonable" period for the States to perform the review.
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