Supreme Court to deliver verdict on reservation in promotion, set to re-ignite merit vs quota debate

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New Delhi | Updated: September 26, 2018 11:04 AM

There have been passionate arguments from people who favour merit and also from people who favour quota. The private sector, meanwhile, is looking at this development very carefully.

supreme court, scSupreme Court of India

The Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra is set to deliver a key judgement which will have far reaching impact on India’s job market and social justice system. Supreme Court’s five-member bench, led by CJI Misra, reserved judgement on reservation in promotion on 30th August, 2018. The SC bench is set to deliver its verdict on the issue today. The bench, comprising CJI Misra, Justice Kurian Joseph, Justice R F Nariman, Justice S K Kaul and Justice Indu Malhotra, will deliver this crucial judgement.

In the 2006 judgment in M.Nagaraj case, the SC held that quota in promotion can be provided only when the state gathers quantifiable data. The BJP-led NDA government is pressing for referring this to a larger, seven judge, bench. It argues that further proof of backwardness or any data cannot be insisted in case of Schedule Castes and Schedule Tribes. Presenting the Centre’s case Attorney-General KK Venugopal said that due to lack of clarity in this matter lakhs of jobs in the railways and services are stuck.

The development is set to re-ignite the merit vs social justice debate. There have been passionate arguments from people who favour merit and also from people who favour quota. The private sector, meanwhile, is looking at this development very carefully. But largely, on the issue of merit vs quota, private players tread carefully and have favored a more balanced approach.

Talking to Financial Express Online, Rituparna Chakraborty, Co-Founder and Executive Vice President of TeamLease Services, said, “One can not overrule the need for meritocracy because it leads to progress and advancement. When we are talking about improving overall quality of mankind, then that happens through meritocracy. It also helps everyone around to aim for higher standards, that is when advancement and progress happen.”

She added that we (private players) acknowledged that social injustice has happened in the past and we now need to strike a balance, but reservation is only one of the many things that we can do to provide access to the people in society who have lesser access.”

Coming to how private sector sees this debate, she said, “In private sector the conversation is a little different, here it is more about inclusion and diversity and not particularly about castes because there are women who are left out of the workforce, differently-abled people who are being left out of the workforce, so we have to think how can we include them as well.”

“When we talk about job-market outsiders, it can not be restricted to castes alone. Private sector has taken a lead in making inclusion a priority, and that is the conversation here. How can we make our workforce and employee ecosystem more inclusive which is not limited to caste. Caste is one of the many component of inclusion but not the only one,” she said.

Social justice activist and former bureaucrat PS Krishnan holds a contrary view. In an interview with Scroll web portal, PS Krishnan, former secretary of the Ministry of Welfare, said, “Inequality is a problem which is present in every society but the the Indian caste system creates maximum inequality. It would take a long time for the SC/STs recruited at a lower level in any job to reach the higher positions. Reservation in promotion, if implemented sincerely, will over time help in providing a just representation to the SC/STs and will approximate their population at every level. This is not reverse discrimination. This is only correction of the inequality and injustice that has been inflicted, historically, upon these communities.”

On the issue of merit and efficiency, the interview quoted Krishnan as saying that the emphasis placed on efficiency presumes they are not competent. According to Krishnan, merit and efficiency are not qualities restricted to certain castes. Quoting Swami Vivekananda, Krishnan said that education is the process of bringing out the divinity that is already present in people. Krishnan improvised on Swami Vivekananda’s quote, stating that reservation is the process of bringing out the merit and efficiency that are already present in scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and socially and educational backward classes.

A recent report in the Indian Express reported that the PMO held its first meeting on affirmative action for the upliftment of these communities in private sector. There is a spike in protests by caste based groups across the country demanding a range of issues including quotas in jobs and promotions.

The report quoted an official who attended the meeting as saying that questions were raised over the private sector’s commitment to provide jobs to SCs and STs. “The robustness in industry’s efforts is missing,” he said. “Sincerity of data is lacking, the private sector is not so committed to the cause as one would like it to be,” the official added.

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