SC/ST quota: New law abuse of power, say petitioners

SC/ST quota: New law abuse of power, say petitioners

The Supreme Court on Tuesday started hearing arguments on a batch of petitions related to the contentious issue of reservation in promotion to SC/ST employees in Karnataka.

A bench of Justices U U Lalit and D Y Chandrachud heard the arguments advanced by senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan on behalf of the petitioners belonging to the general category of staff.

Dhavan contended that the B K Pavitra judgement, passed on February 9, 2017, quashing the reservation in promotions, was intact. The new Karnataka law was an abuse of legislative power to circumvent the apex court's judgement and it was also not in conformity with the M Nagaraj judgement delivered last month, which talked about exclusion of creamy layers.

The court, which heard the arguments for over four hours, would continue proceedings on Wednesday as well.

The issue before the top court had arisen after it had, in 2017, struck down reservation in promotions for SC/ST employees after having noted that the mandatory exercise of collecting empirical data on representation as per the mandate of the M Nagaraj judgement was not undertaken, among others.

However, 'The Karnataka Extension of Consequential Seniority to Government Servants Promoted on the Basis of Reservation (To the Posts in the Civil Services of the State) Act, 2017' was enacted and published in the gazette on June 23 this year to protect reservation in promotion to SC/ST employees.

Separately, on a plea for reconsideration of the 2006 M Nagaraj judgement, which had mandated collection of data on inadequacy of representation before making provisions for reservation to the SC/ST employees, a five-judge Constitution bench had, on September 25, held that the concept of creamy layer would be applicable in their case as well.

The court had then said that states would no longer be required to collect quantifiable data to determine backwardness of these groups as it was contrary to Indira Sawhney judgement (Mandal) by a nine-judge bench. However, the bench had affirmed the other two conditions laid down in M Nagaraj's judgment - quantifiable data on inadequacy of representation and overall administrative efficiency. The Nagaraj judgement had formed the basis for the apex court's February 9, 2017 ruling on Karnataka's previous law in the matter.