In order to provide reservation in promotions, the states must first determine whether the criteria of ‘inadequacy of representation’, ‘backwardness’ and ‘overall efficiency’ are fulfilled, the Supreme Court has said. The apex court set aside provisions of the ‘Karnataka Determination of Seniority of the Government Servants Promoted on the Basis of Reservation (to the posts in the civil services of the State) Act’, 2002, which did away with ‘catch up’ rule and provided consequential seniority to persons belonging to Schedule Castes and Schedule Tribes in promotion.
As per an earlier judgement of apex court, ‘Catch up’ rule means that if a senior candidate of general category is promoted after SC/ST candidates, he would regain his seniority in promotion over the juniors promoted ahead of him under the reserved vacancies. Relying on a constitution bench judgement, the court said the provisions of the Act are ultra vires to Articles 14 (right to equality) and 16 (equality of opportunity in goverment service) of the Constitution.
A bench of Justices A K Goel and U U Lalit, while setting aside the High Court order upholding the Act, said under the 85th amendment to the Constitution, liberty has been given to states to give reservation in promotion with consequential seniority under Article 16(4A), if warranted under the criterias of ‘backwardness, ‘inadequacy of representation’ and ‘overall efficiency’.
“It is clear that exercise for determining ‘inadequacy of representation’, ‘backwardness’ and ‘overall efficiency’, is a must for exercise of power under Article 16(4A).
“Mere fact that there is no proportionate representation in promotional posts for SCs and STs is not by itself enough to grant consequential seniority to promotees who are otherwise junior and thereby denying seniority to those who are given promotion later on account of reservation policy,” it said while allowing the appeals of government employees. The High Court had upheld the validity of the Act, which provided for grant of consequential seniority to the public servants belonging to SC and ST categories and promoted under the reservation policy.