Observing that reservation in promotion for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes cannot go on indefinitely but only till they are adequately represented, the Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Centre to place data before it to justify continuance of the quota. A bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao, Sanjiv Khanna and BR Gavai, which is examining the validity of the Centre’s decision to continue with the policy of reservation in promotion, asked attorney general KK Venugopal and additional solicitor general Balbir Singh repeatedly whether any exercise has been undertaken by the Centre after 1997 to find out the proportion of SC and ST employees in central government jobs.
“Where is the data which say that there is deficiency in representation to justify reservation in promotion? Show us the data,” the bench told the government.
The bench is hearing a plea of the Centre challenging the Delhi high court order quashing its notification granting reservation in promotion for SC/ST employees beyond the five-year period the Supreme Court had stipulated in the Indra Sawhney case.
“What exercise has the government done after 1997 to find out adequacy or inadequacy of their representation to continue with reservation in promotion… After a particular period of time, representation of SCs/STs is bound to to be more than 15 and 7.5%. We want to find out whether any exercise was undertaken by the government to get quantifiable data. Where is the data which say that there is deficiency in representation to justify reservation in promotion. Show us the data,” said the bench.
“How would you justify reservation in promotion? You are talking only about principles but not about data. There must be some justification for continuing with reservation in promotion,” the bench told the ASG.
As the court insisted, the AG said he would get back on Wednesday on whether there was quantifiable data of SC/ST representation.
However, Venugopal told the court that in 1965, the percentage of SC and ST staff in central government jobs was 3.34% and 0.62% respectively which has risen to 17.5% and 6.82%. He said the SC-ST representation was more in Group C and Group D categories of jobs and less in A and B categories. The AG also contended that adequate representation means that their share in the government jobs should be proportionate to their share in the population.
In 2017, the Delhi high court had quashed the notification on a batch of pleas filed by general category government employees who approached the court through their lawyer Kumar Parimal. The HC accepted his submission that such a move made under Article 16 (4A) was not permissible without adequate data to prove inadequacy of representation and backwardness. The HC quashed the department of personnel and training’s Office Memorandum dated August 13, 1997.