Top court jolts Karnataka on SC/ST quota in promotions

Calls for checking overall efficiency before enforcing reservation

Top court jolts Karnataka on SC/ST quota in promotions
The exercise for determining ‘inadequacy of representation’, ‘backwardness’ and ‘overall efficiency’ must be carried out before granting promotion to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes employees under the Constitution, the Supreme Court held on Thursday.

“(The) mere fact that there is no proportionate representation in promotional posts for the population of 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,” a bench of Justices Adarsh Kumar Goel and U U Lalit noted.

The apex court was hearing a petition by B K Pavitra and others, who pointed out
that assistant engineers of SC/ST category recruited in 1987 were promoted to the cadre of assistant executive engineers while assistant engineers recruited in 1976 under general merit were considered for promotion to the said cadre.

The government granted benefits to the 1987 cadre engineers under 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.

The petitioners challenged a high court ruling that they must prove that overall efficiency was adversely affected by giving consequential seniority to junior persons who got promotion on account of reservation granted under Article 16 (4A) of the Constitution.

Opposing the petition, senior advocate Basava Prabhu S Patil, appearing for Karnataka, submitted that the Act did not deal with reservation but seniority. “Seniority is not a fundamental right but a civil right,” Patil said.

The apex court, however, rejected the contention by saying, “It is for the state to place material on record that there was compelling necessity for exercise of such power and (that the) decision of the state was based on material including the study that overall efficiency is not compromised.”

“In the present case, no such exercise has been undertaken... Further plea that seniority was not a fundamental right is equally without any merit in the present context,” the bench said and allowed the appeal by setting aside the high court judgement.

But the court said the judgement would not affect those who had retired and taken certain financial benefits.

“Consequential promotions granted to serving employees, based on consequential seniority benefit, will be treated as ad hoc and liable to be reviewed. Seniority list may be now revised in the light of this judgement within three months from today. Further consequential action may be taken accordingly within (the) next three months,” the bench said.
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