The Bench said this criterion would be applicable only for determining the number of seats for Lok Sabha and state legislatures and not for quota.
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday declined to refer the 2006 judgment, which ended quotas in promotions for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes, to a larger bench and ruled that there was no need to provide “quantifiable data to show the communities needed the affirmative action”.
A Constitution Bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices Kurian Joseph, Rohinton Nariman, S.K. Kaul and Indu Malhotra rejected the Centre’s demand for re-visiting the 2006 ruling on the ground that it has become impossible to implement the court’s directions to provide quota for SC/STs only after identifying backwardness, collecting data on adequacy of representation and administrative efficiency.
The Bench held that the-re was no need to revisit the verdict by a larger Bench of seven judges, while adding that the concept of “creamy layer” would be applicable to SC/STs, but their inclusion or exclusion has to be done by Parliament.
In October 2006, a five-judge Constitution Bench in the case of Nagaraj vs Union of India has concluded the issue by holding that the state is not bound to make reservation for SC/ST in matter of promotions. However, if they wish to exercise their discretion and make such provision, the state has to collect quantifiable data showing backwardness of the class and inadequacy of representation of that class in public employment before providing quota in promotions to members of these communities.
Disagreeing with this, the Centre had said there has to be a presumption of backwardness for SC/ST and that the 2006 judgment should not have stipulated for satisfaction regarding backwardness of the class in providing reservation in promotion.
Writing the unanimous judgment, Justice Nariman said Nagaraj judgment does not need to be referred to a seven-judge Bench. However, the court accepted the Centre’s contention that there was no need for fresh identification of backwardness of SC/ST employees as the determination of backwardness by the President at the time of inclusion of the community under the list of Scheduled Caste is sufficient.
On the concept of “creamy layer”, it said while it will be applicable to SC/STs, Parliament will have complete freedom to include or exclude persons from the Presidential Lists based on relevant factors. Similarly, Constitutional courts, when applying the principle of reservation, will be well within their jurisdiction to exclude the creamy layer from such groups or sub-groups when applying the principles of equality under Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution.
The whole object of reservation is to see that backward classes of citizens move forward so that they may march hand in hand with other citizens of India on an equal basis. This will not be possible if only the creamy layer within that class bag all the coveted jobs in the public sector and perpetuate themselves, leaving the rest of the class as backward as they always were, the court said.
The Bench turned down the Centre’s plea to lay down that the proportion of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes should be with reference to the population of India and should be taken to be the test for determining whether they are adequately represented in promotional posts. The Bench said this criterion would be applicable only for determining the number of seats for Lok Sabha and state legislatures and not for quota.