A Five Judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court on September 2018 held that the 2006 Judgment in Nagraj Case, relating to reservations for SC/ST in promotions, need not be referred for consideration of larger Bench of 7 judges.
The bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice Kurian Joseph, Justice R F Nariman, Justice S K Kaul and Justice Indu Malhotra reversed the order in Nagaraj judgment that mandated states to collect quantifiable data to prove backwardness.
However, Justice Nariman clarified that there is no requirement to collect quantifiable data of backwardness of SC/STs to provide reservation in promotions, saying it was contrary to the decision in Indira Sawhney case.
2006 judgment in Nagraj Case
• In the 2006 judgment, the Supreme Court had held that it is not mandatory for the State to make reservations for scheduled castes or scheduled tribes (SC/STs) in matter of promotions.
• However, if the State wishes to exercise its discretion, it has to gather quantifiable data showing backwardness of the class and inadequacy of representation of that class in public employment.
• For making reservations in promotion, states also need to comply with the requirement of maintaining administrative efficiency as per Article 335.
• It was further held that the State is required to adhere to the ceiling-limit of 50 percent and abstain from obliterating the creamy layer or extending the reservation indefinitely.
Aftermath of the 2006 judgment
The correctness of interpretation of this judgment was doubted later, and the case was referred to Constitution Bench for reconsideration during November 2017. Accordingly, a Constitution Bench consisting of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice Kurian Joseph, Justice R F Nariman, Justice S K Kaul and Justice Indu Malhotra was constituted.
The five-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra heard many lawyers, including Attorney General KK Venugopal, ASG Tushar Mehta, Senior Counsel Indira Jaising, P. S. Patwalia, Dinesh Dwivedi and Sanjay Hedge in favour of the reference of the case to larger bench.
While, Senior Advocates Shanti Bhushan, Rajeev Dhavan, Rakesh Dwivedi and Shekhar Naphade were in support of the 2006 ruling.
The Attorney General sought for the reconsideration of the case by a larger bench in view of the seven and nine judge bench decisions in N. M. Thomas (1976) And Indira Sawhney (1992) respectively. In these cases, it was held that there is a presumption of backwardness in respect of the SC/ST and that the ‘creamy layer’ concept does not apply to them.
Attorney General objected to the requirement of proving backwardness especially for the SC and ST. He also contended that criterion of backwardness of SC and ST categories was already satisfied by notification under Articles 341 and 342.
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