SC stays GO restoring posts of demoted SC/ST staff

The Supreme Court on Friday stayed the Karnataka government’s order of February 27 restoring cadre and pay scales of thousands of SC/ST employees, demoted in terms of the February 9, 2017 judgement in the B K Pavitra case.

“When a statement was made on July 27 by Karnataka’s Advocate General that the status quo would not change. This is a matter of institutional prestige of this court,” a bench of Justices U U Lalit and D Y Chandrachud said.

“When the hearing is at final stage on law, it is appropriate status quo is not altered,” the bench further added.

The top court ordered the state government to maintain the status quo and advanced the date of hearing, also related to the validity of new law passed by the Karnataka government, to March 6.

Notably, the apex court is seized up with a batch of petitions filed by general category of employees seeking directions to the state government to comply with February 9, 2017 judgement, which had quashed the law granting reservation in promotion to Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe employees.

Besides, separate writ petitions have been filed against the Karnataka government’s fresh law, passed last year, to nullify the impact of the judgement. Final arguments have been advanced before the court on several dates. It was heard last time on February 13 and was posted for consideration on March 13.

On Friday, the court passed the order after hearing counsel from the state government, general and reserved category of employees.

Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan pointed out to ‘zigzag’ done by the state government. He said the compliance to the apex court’s judgement would have completed by June, 2018, but the process was stalled after President’s assent to the new law, nullifying the effect of the judgement.

“This action is entirely unilateral,” he said, seeking maintenance of status quo.

He said the reverted officials will come back and the benefit would be extended to autonomous bodies as well.

Senior advocate Basava Prabhu Patil, appearing for the Karnataka government, said no prejudice was going to be caused to the other employees. “It is again subject to the final outcome of the court hearing, the Cabinet took the decision as heartburn for the SC/ST staff has continued for a long period of time,” he said.

“We understand it was not done surreptitiously. But don’t change the status quo. At best, it is a matter of two to three weeks,” the bench said.

Appearing for the SC/ST employees, senior advocate Indira Jaising said, there was no stay on the operation of the new Act. “No demotion is going to take place. Entire seniority list is to be redrawn, it is a very lengthy process. The issue is not so much about the immediate outcome. It is about laying down the process for their rights. We have suffered about one year for having been demoted. Everything is subject to the outcome of the judgement,” she said.

Senior advocate V Laxminarayana, also representing SC/ST employees cited the previous apex court judgements, saying the court would be very slow to stay the operation of provisions of a law unless it is ex facie unconstitutional.

An application was filed by general category of employees contending the state by its order on February 27 has wilfully and deliberately flouted the orders passed in contempt proceedings which are still pending.

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SC stays GO restoring posts of demoted SC/ST staff

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