By Arun Pratap Singh
Dehradun, 8 Feb: With the Supreme Court of India, setting aside the direction of Uttarakhand High Court to the state government of granting reservations in promotions, the state government can again take up cases of promotions held up for long. It may be recalled that a large number of promotions of state government employees had been held for past six months due to a rather strange High Court’s direction to the state government to grant reservations in promotions too. The decision comes as a major relief in particular for those employees who are nearing their retirement and any delay in this judgement could have jeopardised their chances of promotion even if long overdue!
It would be pertinent to remind here that Uttarakhand Government had in 2012 taken a decision to stop reservations in the promotions based on the recommendations of Justice Irshad Hussain Committee. However, this decision had been challenged by SC/ST Employees Federation in Uttarakhand High Court.
The federation had claimed that there was a roster system existing in every department and therefore it was mandatory on the part of the government to follow that register in promotions. Based on that promotions were being decided in these years based on the roster system. However, the present Government led by Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat, had decided not to create any reservation in the promotions. Uttarakhand is one state which has comparatively higher majority of general category population and several general category employees unions and federations had been representing before the government since past several years to stop reservation system in promotions. Their contention was that the merit as well as the seniority were being overlooked because of the quota system. It was in this light the government had decided not to have any reservation quota in promotions. This, however was not taken well by several unions and employees federations belonging to the SC and ST communities.
Hearing the case, the High Court had stayed promotions and had directed the state government to first collect quantifiable data regarding representation of SCs/STs and then take a call for the reservation quota in promotions as well. Hearing in a specific case of promotions of Assistant Engineers of PWD Department, the High Court had further directed the state government to fill up future vacancies on promotion from the members of SCs and STs.
The judgement was quite unusual and rather strange and it was therefore challenged in the Supreme Court by the state government. The Supreme Court while hearing the case on Friday held that there was no fundamental right to claim reservation in public jobs and no court could order a state government to provide for reservation to SC/STs. The apex court further ruled that it was within absolute discretion of a state government to decide whether or not to provide for reservation or reservation in promotions, and no state government was under any kind of obligation to mandatorily do so.The court said provisions in Article 16 for providing reservation in favour of SC/STs were enabling provisions, vesting a discretion on the state government.No mandamus could be issued by any Court directing the State Government to provide reservations. The bench held both the directions to be unjustifiable in light of the law and set them aside.
With this decision, the government is now free to go ahead with the promotions held up for past six months due to the High Court’s direction. Though the Secretariat Employees Union President Deepak Joshi and General Secretary of Joint Government Employees Union Arun Pandey have welcomed the decision, the SC/ST Employees Federations have expressed disappointment over the decision. They further have expressed anguished over the welcome reaction by the general category employees union claiming that the combined unions were not concerned about the interests of SC/ST employee. However, the decision has come as a major relief for the state government which can now go about the task of promotions purely on the basis of seniority and merit.