UPA’s quota quandary

Dec 17 2012, 09:30 IST
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SummaryBowing to the pressure tactics of BSP supremo Mayawati, the UPA government has set the ball rolling for a provision for reservation for SC/ST employees in promotions

Bowing to the pressure tactics of BSP supremo Mayawati, the UPA government has set the ball rolling for a provision for reservation for SC/ST employees in promotions. However, getting the Constitution (117th Amendment) Bill, 2012 passed in both Houses of Parliament would only be the beginning of the process to undo the April 27 decision of the Supreme Court through which it had set aside reservation in promotions provided by the previous Mayawati-led government in Uttar Pradesh on the ground that the same did not fulfil the criteria laid down by the apex court in N Nagaraj versus Union of India.

Since while quashing the notification, the court had observed that no exercise was undertaken to collect quantifiable data regarding inadequacy of SC/ST employees in senior government jobs, it would be interesting to see what kind of data the UPA government comes up with to support the amendment.

For there is every likelihood that the Constitution amendment would be challenged by those opposing the provision.

In Nagaraj, a five-judge SC Bench had categorically ruled that before providing for reservations “the concerned State will have to show in each case the existence of the compelling reasons, namely, backwardness, inadequacy of representation and overall administrative efficiency”.

The Bench had also ruled that while the State “is not bound to make reservation for SC/ST in matter of promotions”, in case it wanted to make such provision, it “has to collect quantifiable data showing backwardness of the class and inadequacy of representation of that class in public employment”.

In an earlier judgment, this one by a nine-judge Bench, in the Indra Sawhney case, the court had ruled that while the SC/STs could be given reservation while entering in government jobs, the concept of quota in promotions was not justified. The 77th amendment to the Constitution was done to negate the impact of Indra Sawhney.

In August, in his legal opinion on the issue of quota in promotions, Attorney General Goolam E Vahanvati told the government that while the constitutional amendment providing for reservation in promotions in government jobs for SC/ST employees could be brought, any such amendments must fulfil the criteria laid down in Nagaraj. In his opinion, he also warned the government that any amendment passed by Parliament would in all likelihood be scrutinised by the SC.

One only hopes that this time, the UPA has done its homework properly and, if need be, has the data to defend the

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