Reservation in promotions


Citing historical deprivation the Centre called the Supreme Court to revisit 2006 Nagaraj ruling.

  • The government began its push for providing “accelerated promotion with consequential seniority” for Scheduled Castes/ Scheduled Tribes (SC/ST) members in public employment.
  • It was said that the Dalits are ‘presumed backward’ and are facing deprivation of sorts till date and that the state needs to take affirmative action by providing them equality of opportunity.



  • The 2006 Nagaraj judgment was pronounced by a five-judge Constitution Bench.
  • Following a 2006 judgment of the Supreme Court, the government cannot introduce a quota in promotion for its SC/ST employees unless they prove that the particular Dalit community is backward, inadequately represented and such a reservation in promotion would not affect the overall efficiency of public administration. The opinion of the government should also be based on quantifiable data.
  • It was made clear that even if the state has compelling reasons, the state will have to see that its reservation provision does not lead to excessiveness so as to breach the ceiling limit of 50% or obliterate the creamy layer or extend reservation indefinitely



  • Now, the government wants another five-judge Constitution Bench to refer the 2006 verdict to a larger Bench for a re-examination, citing the reason that the 2006 verdict had effectively created an “impossible situation” for providing accelerated promotions with consequential seniority for SC/ST communities in government services.
  • Government said it wanted a total of 22.5% (15% for SC+7.5% for ST) posts reserved for promotion for SC/ST in public employment, stating, only this quantum would satisfy their need for adequate representation.
  • The government objected to a creamy layer concept among the SC/ST.


SC verdict : Reservation in Promotion Valid

  • A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court has modified a 2006 judgment requiring the State to show quantifiable data to prove the backwardness of a Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe community in order to provide quota in promotion in public employment.
  • M. Nagaraj judgment of another five-judge Constitution Bench in 2006 was directly contrary to the nine-judge Bench verdict in the Indira Sawhney case.
  • In the Indira Sawhney case, the Supreme Court had held that the test or requirement of social and educational backwardness cannot be applied to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, who indubitably fall within the expression ‘backward class of citizens’.
  • The whole object of reservation is to see that backward classes of citizens move forward so that they may march hand in hand with other citizens of India on an equal basis.
  • This will not be possible if only the creamy layer within that class bag all the coveted jobs in the public sector and perpetuate themselves, leaving the rest of the class as backward as they always were.
  • Bench upheld Nagaraj’s direction that creamy layer be applied to SC/ST in promotions.
  • It said that when a court applies the creamy layer principle to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, it does not in any manner tinker with the Presidential List under Articles 341 or 342 of the Constitution of India.
  • The caste or group or sub-group named in the said List continues exactly as before.
  • It is only those persons within that group or sub-group, who have come out of untouchability or backwardness by virtue of belonging to the creamy layer, who are excluded from the benefit of reservation.

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