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The quota for SCs, STs in job promotion | Supreme Court Don’t want to reopen an order


The Supreme Court on Tuesday said it was not ready to reopen a debate on its judgments granting reservation in promotion in government jobs to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

A Bench led by Justice L. Nageswara Rao reiterated the court’s stand that it was up to the State governments to find ways and means of implementing the court’s June 2018 judgment on the issue.

In a 58-page judgment in 2018, a Constitution Bench, led by then Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, modified a 2006 judgment that required the State to show quantifiable data to prove the “backwardness” of a Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe community in order to provide quota in promotion in public employment.

The five-judge Bench judgment in the Jarnail Singh case in 2018 had given a huge fillip to the government’s efforts to provide “accelerated promotion with consequential seniority” for Scheduled Castes/ Scheduled Tribes (SC/ST) members in government services.

Indra Sawhney case

Writing the verdict for the Constitution Bench three years ago, Justice Rohinton Nariman (now retired) had held that the requirement to have quantifiable data before granting reservation to SCs and STs was contrary to an earlier nine-judge Bench verdict in the Indra Sawhney case.

In the Indira Sawhney case, the court had held that the “test or requirement of social and educational backwardness cannot be applied to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, who indubitably fall within the expression ‘backward class of citizens’”.

The Constitution Bench had refused to refer the Nagaraj judgment to a seven-judge Bench. It had also dismissed the government’s view that comparing the strength of an SC/ST community to the population of India cannot be the test to determine whether they are adequately represented in government services. It had held that the question of adequate representation of an SC/ST community ought to be left to the respective States to determine.

On Tuesday, Justice Rao said the court had no intention to reopen either Nagaraj or Jarnail Singh. The court expects the States to comply with the judgments and not try expand or deflect the scope of the case, the Bench, comprising Justices Sanjiv Khanna and B.R. Gavai, clarified.

It made these remarks while hearing over 130 petitions variously seeking the implementation of judgments for reservation in promotion.

Senior advocate Indira Jaising appearing for one of the petitioners, said the question was how the States were supposed to identify “backwardness”. “In some cases, High Courts have struck down on the ground that backwardness has not been shown,” she submitted.

Justice Rao shot back, “We are not here to advise the government what they should do. It is not for us to tell the government how to implement policy. It has been specifically held as to how the States have to implement it and consider backwardness and representation. The States have to decide what to do subject to judicial review”.

The court posted a hearing after two weeks.

Reservation in Promotion


Jarnail Singh & Ors vs. Lacchmi Narain Gupta & Ors

Case Details

The Court thoroughly looked into whether reservations for SCs and STs should extend to promotions, by assessing its 2006 Nagaraj judgment.

Early Background

On 26th September, the Court delivered its verdict. According to judgment. It did not call for a review of Nagaraj. Further, it struck down the demonstration of backwardness provision from Nagaraj: To understand this decision first you have to read about the M. Nagaraj v. Union of India.

In 2006, the Court delivered its judgment in M. Nagaraj v. Union of IndiaIn it, the Court validated Parliament’s decision to extend reservations for SC/STs to include promotions (reservation in promotion). However, the Court also laid down conditions that made it difficult for the Central and State Governments to grant such reservations.

Specifically, the Nagaraj judgment laid down three controlling conditions that the State must meet prior to granting an SC/ST a reservation in promotion. First, the State must show the backwardness of the class. Second, it must show that the class is inadequately represented in the position/service for which reservations in the promotion will be granted. Finally, it must show that the reservations are in the interest of administrative efficiency. 

The Constitutional Bench in Nagaraj validated the following constitutional amendments made by Parliament:

Parliament made these amendments to nullify the effect of the Court’s judgement in Indra Sawhney. In Indra Sawhney, a nine-judge Bench had ruled that reservations in appointments, granted to the State by Article 16(4), do not apply to promotions.

Article 16(4A) enables the State to make any law regarding reservation in promotion for SC/STs. Article16(4B) provides that reserved promotion posts for SC/STs that remain unfilled, can be carried forward to the subsequent year. Article 16 (4B) also ensures that the ceiling on the reservation quota — capped at 50% by Indra Sawhney — for these carried forward unfilled posts does not apply to subsequent years.

Article 335 mandates that reservations have to be balanced with the ‘maintenance of efficiency’. The 2001 amendment to Article 335 clarified that the Article will not apply to the State relaxing evaluation standards ‘in matters of promotion’.

The current issue arose from an appeal by the State of Tripura against the judgment of the Tripura High Court. The Tripura High Court had struck down Section 4(2) of the Tripura Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Reservation of Vacancies in Services and Posts) Act, 1991 as being in violation of the three controlling conditions laid down in Nagaraj.

A Division Bench of the Supreme Court, comprising of Justices Kurian Joseph and R. Banumathi, heard the appeal and decided to refer the case to a Constitution Bench on 14th November 2017. Various other matters were tagged to the appeal.

The Division Bench called on the Constitution Bench to revisit Nagaraj. It observed that the Bench in Nagaraj had failed to refer to the earlier EV Chinnaiah case.

Furthermore, the Constitution Bench was tasked with evaluating whether Nagaraj violates Indra Sawhney. The question was whether Nagaraj failed to recognize SC/STs inherent underprivilege, by requiring the State to reassess the backwardness of SC/STs, and thereby violated Indra Sawhney?

On 26th September, the Court delivered its verdict. It did not call for a review of Nagaraj. Further, it struck down the demonstration of backwardness provision from Nagaraj. However, while doing so, it introduced the creamy layer exclusion principle, thus requiring that the State does not extend reservations in promotion to SC/ST individuals who belong to the creamy layer of the said SC/ST.Parties Involved

  • Petitioner :
  • Jarnail Singh
  • Respondent :
  • Lacchmi Narain Gupta


  • Petitioner :
  • Mr. P.S. Patwalia
  • Respondent :
  • Mr. Rajeev Dhavan

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