The Centre on Friday told the Supreme Court that it was in favour of granting 22.5% reservation in promotions to government employees from Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Attorney General KK Venugopal said employees from these communities were presumed to be backward because of more than a thousand years of deprivation, NDTV reported.

A Constitution bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justices Kurien Joseph, RF Nariman, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Indu Malhotra is hearing the matter. The Centre’s push for reservation comes ahead of Assembly elections in multiple states this year and the 2019 General Elections. It has also come after Dalit groups threatened to protest about the top court’s dilution of the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

The attorney general has urged the Suprene Court to revisit its verdict from 2006 that imposed three conditions – identification of backwardness, compelling reasons and inadequate representation – for granting quota in promotions to employees from Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities, Deccan Chronicle reported.

The Centre told the court that there was no need to test the backwardness of employees from these communities while granting promotions as the court itself had said in the 1992 Indra Sawhney case that the test of backwardness does not apply to them.

Venugopal said it was a “situation of impossibility” to comply with these conditions in every case, and that mere backwardness was enough to grant the communities reservation. When the judges asked him about the adequacy of reservation, Venugopal said employees from the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities must account for 23 of every 100 promotions in a year.

“Affirmative action will be illusory if reservations in promotions are not given for SC/ST,” Live Law quoted Venugopal as saying.

The 2006 verdict had held that the state is not bound to make reservations for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in promotions in government jobs. But if the government wishes to introduce such quotas, it needs to collect quantifiable data showing the backwardness of these communities. The order said that if reservation is implement, it must not breach the 50% ceiling or “obliterate the creamy layer”.

On June 5, the top court allowed the Centre to provide reservation in promotions for employees from Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities. The order is effective until the Constitution bench disposes of the matter.