Reservations in India: How low can the bar be?

By: | Published: July 29, 2016 6:19 AM

It was in a similar spirit that, when it was found that just three SC candidates qualified for the viva voce for 119 posts of Civil Judge (Junior Division) in Haryana

It was in a similar spirit that, when it was found that just three SC candidates qualified for the viva voce for 119 posts of Civil Judge (Junior Division) in HaryanaIt was in a similar spirit that, when it was found that just three SC candidates qualified for the viva voce for 119 posts of Civil Judge (Junior Division) in Haryana

On many occasions, sadly, the Supreme Court has gone along with the political class in pushing the reservations’ envelope even further than that laid out in the famous Indra Sawhney case of 1992 which maintained a strict ceiling of 50% for reservations and also restricted this to certain levels of education—later, this got extended to even specialities and super-specialities like surgery. In 1997, in Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research versus KL Narasimhan, the SC said that even if a reserved category candidate was applying for a super-speciality and the qualifying marks were lowered (from, let’s say, 80% in the general category to 70% for the reserved category), it didn’t really matter since the reserved category doctor had passed the same graduate or post-graduate exam anyway. In case the import of the judgement is not clear, here’s a quote which should clarify things: “Securing marks is not the sure proof of higher proficiency, efficiency or excellence … In that behalf, it is common knowledge that marks would be secured in diverse modes … They are awarded in internal examination on the basis of caste, creed, colour, religion, etc.”!

It was in a similar spirit that, when it was found that just three SC candidates qualified for the viva voce for 119 posts of Civil Judge (Junior Division) in Haryana—22 posts were reserved for SCs who needed 45% to qualify—a writ petition was filed asking for the qualifying marks to be lowered. The petitioner cited the SC ruling in Ram Bhagat Singh and another vs State of Haryana and another, 1997 to argue that ‘unless the percentage fixed for qualifying marks is such that it is attainable by the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe candidate, the principle of ensuring equal opportunity cannot be achieved’. It is to the credit of the Punjab and Haryana High Court that it rejected the petition saying ‘in the matter of appointment to Judicial Services, efficiency and quality are non-negotiable’. Fortunately, when the matter reached the SC, it too dismissed the petition. With the political class trying to extend the remit of reservations even further, this is not the last battle on the matter, but every bit of help from the judiciary counts.

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