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SC/ST Govt employees: Quota in job promotions not barred till we decide, says Supreme Court
As per the order Tuesday, any such appointment will also be subject to the final outcome of petitions which have raised the question and are pending before the apex court.

  Amid a raging debate on the issue of reservation in promotions, the Supreme Court Tuesday said the government “is not debarred from making promotions in accordance with law”, but “subject to further orders” and “pending further consideration of the matter”.

Legal experts said what this essentially means is that the government can extend reservation to promotions as envisaged by the Constitution, but this has to be strictly in accordance with the law as it stands now. And the law that currently holds is the 2006 judgment of the Supreme Court in M Nagaraj & Others vs Union of India.

That order upheld the validity of Article 16 (4A) — a special provision which provides for reservation for promotion only to SCs and STs — and said the government can provide reservation in promotions provided it is backed by compelling reasons like proof of backwardness and inadequacy of representation and ensure that it does not affect the overall efficiency of administration.

As per the order Tuesday, any such appointment will also be subject to the final outcome of petitions which have raised the question and are pending before the apex court.

The bench of Justices A K Goel and Ashok Bhushan was hearing the Centre’s plea in connection with an order of the Delhi High Court which, in August 2017, struck down a 1997 circular, issued by the Department of Personnel and Training, extending reservation in promotion to SC and ST employees beyond the five years stipulated by the apex court in the landmark 1992 judgment on Indira Sawhney vs Union of India. The High Court had said that this was not supported by any quantifiable data to prove conditions of backwardness etc.

Appearing for the Centre in the Supreme Court, Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh submitted that the entire process of promotion had come to a “standstill” due to orders of various High Courts on the matter and that the apex court too had ordered status quo in one of them. He pointed out that there were separate verdicts by the High Courts of Delhi, Bombay and Punjab and Haryana on the issue of reservation in promotion to SC/ST employees.
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