New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said “possible solutions” are being explored to the situation created by the Supreme Court striking down Uttar Pradesh’s decision to provide quota for SCs,STs and OBCs in government jobs.
He made the comments at an all-party meeting convened at his residence on Tuesday evening to discuss a way out in the wake of demands that a law should be enacted in this regard.
“The government is exploring the possible solution of the current situation,” Singh said in his opening remarks.
He asked leaders of parties present at the meeting to provide “valuable suggestions so that a legally sustainable solution may be arrived at”, saying these would “be of immense help to the government to decide on the issue”.
Singh pointed out that he had called the meeting to discuss the issue of reservation in promotion specifically in the wake of the decision of the Supreme Court striking down reservation in promotion to SCs and STs in Uttar Pradesh.
“You may be aware that the government had always been committed to protecting the interests of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and on certain occasions did not hesitate even to bring constitutional amendments,” he said.
The prime minister recalled that the Supreme Court had, in its judgement dated 16 November 1992, in the Indra Sawhney case held that reservation in promotion is ultra vires but allowed its continuation for five years from the date of judgement as a special case.
The 77th amendment to the Constitution was made in 1995 inserting clause (4A) to Article 16 before expiry of five years which enabled the government to continue reservation for SCs and STs in promotion, he noted.
Clause (4A) of the Constitution was further modified through 85th amendment so as to give benefit of consequential seniority to SC/ST candidates promoted by reservation, Singh said.
The 81st amendment was made to the Constitution whereby clause (4/B) was incorporated in Article 16 of the Constitution which permits treatment of the backlog reserved vacancies as a separate and distinct group, to which the 50 percent limit may not apply, Singh said.
This enables the government to launch special recruitment drives to fill up backlog vacancies reserved for SCs/STs and OBCs, he added.
During the drive in 2004, more than 60,000 backlog reserved vacancies were filled up. The special recruitment drive of 2008 has already resulted in filling up of 43,781 vacancies, Singh told the meeting.
The 82nd amendment was made to the Constitution whereby a proviso was incorporated in Article 335 of the Constitution which enabled the State to give relaxations/concessions to SC and ST candidates in the matter of promotion.
The aforesaid four Constitutional amendments were made in order to protect the interests of the backward classes including Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
The validity of all these four amendments were challenged before the Supreme Court through various writ petitions clubbed together in M Nagaraj & others vs Union of India & others mainly on the ground that these altered the basic structure of the Constitution, Singh said.
In order to ensure that the case of Government is put effectively before the Supreme Court, K Parasaran, an eminent lawyer, having the experience of defending the interests of weaker sections, was engaged with the approval of the then law minister, the prime minister said.
Singh said it was through the efforts of the government that the Supreme Court in its judgment dated 19 October 2006 in the matter of M Nagaraj and others versus Union of India and others upheld the validity of all these four amendments.
However, the court stipulated that the state concerned will have to show in each case the existence of the compelling reasons, namely, backwardness, inadequacy of representation and overall administrative efficiency before making provision for reservation, he pointed out.
The court further held that the impugned provision is an enabling provision and if the state government wishes to make provision for reservation to SCs and STs in promotion, it has to collect quantifiable data showing backwardness of the class and inadequacy of representation of that class in public employment in addition to compliance of Article 335.
“There were some court cases filed in different states on the ground that the pre-requisite conditions as laid down by the Supreme Courts in M Nagaraj case have not been observed while providing reservation in promotion,” Singh said, adding that in the recent past the Supreme Court has struck down reservation in promotion in some states.