The Supreme Court on Friday said that reservations for promotions in government jobs are not a fundamental right, NDTV reported on Sunday. The top court said it cannot compel states to provide quotas, and that states cannot be forced to make such provisions, unless data shows imbalance in representation for certain groups in government service.

The Supreme Court delivered the verdict after hearing pleas on reservations for members of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes communities in promotions to assistant engineer (civil) posts in the Public Works Department of the Uttarakhand government.

“There is no doubt the state government is not bound to make reservations,” the court said. “There is no fundamental right which inheres in an individual to claim reservation in promotions. No mandamus can be issued by the court directing state governments to provide reservations.” The court’s judgement overturned a 2012 Uttarakhand High Court ruling that directed the state to provide quotas to specified communities.

The Supreme Court added that while Articles 16(4) and 16(4A) of the Constitution give states the power to make such reservations, it is so only “if in the opinion of the state they are not adequately represented in the services of the state”. The court also cautioned the states, asserting that they have to justify decisions taken if challenged in a court of law.

The decisions have to be taken using quantifiable data, the Supreme Court said. However, it added that quantifiable data need not be provided if the state decides not to provide for reservations to a particular community, the Hindustan Times reported.

In 2018, a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court had said that the “creamy layer” among castes is not entitled to reservations in government jobs. In December last year, the Centre filed a plea requesting that a seven-judge bench review the verdict.