The Supreme Court on Friday held that it cannot lay down any yardstick for determining the adequacy of the representation of members of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities while giving them reservation in promotions in government jobs, reported Bar and Bench.

“State is obligated to collect quantifiable data regarding SC/ST representation [in jobs],” the court said. “We have left it to state to assess yardstick to determine inadequacy of representation of SC/ST.”

A three-judge bench led by Justice L Nageswara Rao pronounced the verdict on a batch of petitions that were filed challenging reservation-related judgements from 11 different High Courts.

The court was dealing with several questions, including whether a yardstick should be appointed to ascertain the quantifiable data for adequate representation of the two communities, Live Law reported. Questions like whether cadre or the entire service should be considered as a unit for collecting data for reservation and how the “efficiency” of the administration would be determined were also being heard.

The court had reserved its verdict on October 26.

In its verdict on Friday, the court held that cadre should be considered as a unit for collecting data for reservations. It said that the collection of data cannot be with respect to the entire group or service but should be related to the grade or category of the post for which promotion is being sought.

The court left it for the states to decide the time period for reviewing the data collected. It, however, said the time period should be reasonable.

It also held that the ruling in the 2006 M Nagaraj case will have a prospective effect, meaning the verdict in that matter will not apply to earlier pronounced verdicts.

In the M Nagaraj case, a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court had upheld reservation in promotions for members of the SC and ST communities. However, it had laid down three conditions to grant reservations:

  • States needed to show the backwardness of the class using quantifiable data.
  • States needed to show that there was inadequate representation of the class in government jobs.
  • States needed to comply with Article 335 of the Constitution of India which states that reservation should be made while maintaining the efficiency of the administration.

Following this, when some states tried to implement reservation, High Courts had struck it down saying that the conditions mandated by the Nagaraj verdict, of showing data for backwardness and inadequacy in representation, were not met.

In 2018, there were petitions before the Supreme Court asking for a review of the Nagaraj verdict by a higher bench. The Supreme Court refused to review the verdict. However, it held that states do not need to show the backwardness of the class to grant reservation in promotions.

Then, 144 petitions were filed by the central and various state governments urging the Supreme Court to urgently hear the matter as several appointments have been stalled as the norms for granting reservations were not clear. The petitioners also wanted clarifications on the court’s 2018 verdict.

A detailed copy of Friday’s verdict is awaited.