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Jarnail Singh and ors. vs Lachhmi Narain Gupta and ors.

Jarnail Singh and ors. vs Lachhmi Narain Gupta and ors.

Introduction

  • Reservation has always been a contentious issue in Indian polity. After the Poona Pact, Dr. B R Ambedkar gave up the demand of the Dalit community for separate electoral colleges.It was agreed that the castes described by the British as “depressed classes” would be given reservation in employment with joint electorates (in the provincial and central legislatures) for a larger number of seats than envisaged by the Macdonald award. There was thus, a national compact that the “depressed classes” should be represented in appointments in public services as well as in local bodies, in other words, reservation in public services and local bodies. The said ‘depressed classes’ came to be known as “Scheduled Castes” and “Scheduled Tribes”.

Background

  • The high court had passed the verdict in the light of the apex court constitution bench judgment in M Nagaraj (2006).
  • On May 17, a bench of Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice Mohan M Shantanagoudar, hearing an SLP against the 2011 judgment of the Punjab & Haryana High Court quashing a similar OM in pursuance of M Nagaraj, had directed “that the pendency of this Special Leave Petition shall not stand in the way of Union of India taking steps for the purpose of promotion from ‘reserved to reserved’ and ‘unreserved to unreserved’ and also in the matter of promotion on merits.”
  • The Constitution bench of the Supreme Court,on 26 September,2018 delivered a judgement authored by Justice Rohinton Nariman, that reservation in promotions does not require the state to collect quantifiable data on the backwardness of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, yet makes the “creamy layer” in either group ineligible for the benefits

Issues | Jarnail Singh and ors. vs Lachhmi Narain Gupta and ors.

  • Whether M. Nagaraj v. Union of India (Nagaraj) required reconsideration?
  • Nagaraj verdict had held that before the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe candidates can be promoted, the states had to prove by “quantifiable data” that they were indeed “backward”
  • Whether the ‘creamy layer’ among SC/STs should be barred from obtaining promotions through reservations?

Judgement | Jarnail Singh and ors. vs Lachhmi Narain Gupta and ors.

  • The court set aside the requirement to collect quantifiable data that was stipulated by its 2006 verdict in M. Nagaraj v. Union of India as it ignored the reasoning of a nine-judge bench in Indra Sawhney (1992) that any discussion on creamy layer “has no relevance” in the context of SC/STs.
  • The court has taken more than a decade to correct an anomaly in the Nagaraj case which brought in a creamy layer filter for promotions for SC/ST employees. This resulted in thousands of employees being denied their due promotions.

Analysis  | Jarnail Singh and ors. vs Lachhmi Narain Gupta and ors.

  • The judgment of the Supreme Court in this which confirmed  the application of creamy layer to promotions for SC/ST government employees as held in M. Nagaraj vs Union of India, showed the  meagre understanding of the nature of caste discrimination in institutions.
  • While on one hand, the judgment held Articles 16(4A) and 16(4B) to be valid,which allows for reservations in promotions, on the other, it effectively neutralized this benefit by applying the creamy layer restriction. If the current creamy layer ceiling of Rs 8 lakh per annum were to be applied, even ‘Group D’ SC/ST employees would be barred from reservations. Like a deft magician, the court has performed a sleight of hand on reservation in promotions –given it by one hand and taken it away by another hand.
  • Jarnail Singh and ors. vs Lachhmi Narain Gupta and ors.

 

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Indian Polity

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