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Thursday, 27 September 2018 04:28
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Shobhana edit

While there is no denying that persons belonging to scheduled castes and tribes do need some encouragement, there has also been a tendency to misuse these quotas. Consequently, the Supreme Court’s decision on Wednesday to not refer the seminal Nagaraj judgment on reservation in promotions for scheduled castes (SC) and scheduled tribes (ST) to a seven-judge bench is welcome. Indeed, the five-judge bench noted that the unanimous Nagaraj judgment by five judges had held sway since 2006. However, the apex court ruled in favour of the government when it said there was no need to collect data to verify whether those from these classes were backward given this was implicit; the Nagaraj judgment made testing of backwardness a must. In fact, the attorney general had also argued on the same lines, and had pointed out that collecting data for the purpose of proving backwardness would be contrary to the ruling in the Indra Sawhney case. In that case, it was held that once SCs and STs were part of the Presidential List under Articles 341 and 342 of the Constitution, there was no need to prove backwardness.

At the same time, the apex court has done well to say that the inadequacy of representation of SC/ST—a key Nagaraj ruling—needs to be demonstrated and, consequently, data must be collected to do this. “We may make it clear that quantifiable data shall be collected by the State…on the inadequacy of representation, which can be tested by the Courts”, the judges noted. Importantly, the judges added that the data must relate to the concerned cadre. This was on the lines of the Nagaraj judgment. Wednesday’s judgment was also critical because it upheld the Nagaraj ruling that, while promoting SCs and STs, it was important to ensure that the efficiency of administration would not be compromised.

The apex court also said that the courts would be within their remit to apply the principle of creamy layer to SCs and STs. It observed that the objective of reservation was to see that backward classes of citizens move forward, and this would not be possible if only the creamy layer ended up with the public sector positions. As such, the Supreme Court noted, it was clear that when courts applied the principle of the creamy layer to SCs and STs, it was in no way tinkering with the lists of these persons as under Articles 341 or 342 of the Constitution.



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