“For States to Implement”: SC will not again prescribe promotion quota policies

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court declined to impose a new policy for determining backwardness. It also stressed that orders were passed through judgments like M. Nagaraj (2006) or Jarnail Singh (2018) where issues regarding reservation in promotion have been resolved.

A bench consisting of justices Sanjiv Khanna, B R Gavai and Justices L Nageswara Rao said that they were not going to reopen Nagraj and Jarnail Singh cases. The court pointed out that these cases were to be decided in accordance with the law of the highest court.

K.K., Attorney General of India, was the Centre’s leader. Venugopal asked the top court for clarifications against the background of promotions on 2,500 post still being stalled by orders from various high courts.

Venugopal also asked the top court for a recall of the contempt notice against the Union Home Secretary regarding ad-hoc promotions to 149 officers. These promotions were allegedly done in violation of the April 15, 2019, order on maintaining the status quo. The bench refused to recall the contempt notice, but said that it would still hear the main case.

Senior advocates Indira Jaising, and P.S. Patwalia had raised several issues in the Nagaraj judgment, which led to various high courts interfering in the guidelines set by the state governments regarding reservation in promotion.

The bench accepted over 130 petitions and directed the advocate on record for different state governments to identify unusual issues and submit a note within two weeks.

It stated that it will not allow any arguments for reopening cases or arguing about Indira Sawhney’s law being wrong, as the scope of these cases is to follow the law that was established by the highest court.

Orally, the bench observed that the apex courts had already issued orders regarding how to look at backwardness and it could not prescribe further policy. It is up to the states to implement policies, not us to prescribe. It added that we are not going to make a decision on Article 16(4) or 16(4a of the Constitution.”

In the Constitution bench decisions by Nagaraj Singh and Jarnail Sing, the top court had established conditions: data collection on inadequacy in representation, overall effect upon efficiency in administration and exclusion of creamy layers. It also considered reservation in promotion for SC/STs employees.

Venugopal claimed that Nagaraj ruling needed to be interpreted and that there were doubts about reservations in promotions. 1,400 promotions were given on an ad-hoc basis. This was not based on the principle of reservations but on seniority. Venugopal explained that this was to maintain the department’s functioning.

Advocate Rajeev Davan, advocate Kumar Parimal, and other private parties represented by Rajeev, requested that the court ensure strict compliance with the conditions, as laid out in the Nagaraj judgment.

The court has set a detailed hearing to hear the case beginning in October 5.