BENGALURU: Ending all speculation and delays over restoring posts of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe state government employees who were demoted in 2017, the Supreme Court upheld the validity of consequential seniority Act on Friday. With this 3,799 state government employees belonging to SC and ST communities will be reinstated in posts they held before the court’s 2017 judgment scrapping reservation-based promotions, came. Their original cadre and pay scale will also be restored with retrospective effect from the date of their demotion with all financial benefits.
The order will, directly and indirectly, impact 45,000 employees of the state government. “There is merit in the submission of the State of Karnataka that progression in a cadre based on promotion cannot be treated as the acquisition of creamy layer status,” the Supreme Court bench of Justice Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud and Justice Uday Umesh Lalit said. The court noted that challenge to the constitutional validity of the Reservation Act, 2018 lacks substance and that the state had cured the deficiency which was noticed in the judgment of the B K Pavitra case in 2017. “The constitutional validity of the Reservation Act 2018 has been upheld,” the court ordered.
With this order, the SC has cleared the path for the state government to implement the Karnataka Extension of Consequential Seniority to Government Servants Promoted on the Basis of Reservation (to the Posts in the Civil Services of the State) Act, 2018.
State government employees from two communities have been demanding implementation of the consequential seniority Act for over a year now. With its verdict, the SC has left that State with no more excuses to delay its implementation. Officials in the Social Welfare Department insist that a new seniority list will be drawn up soon to ensure restoration and review of reservation-based promotions.
The Act, passed during Siddaramaiah’s tenure as CM, sought to protect the promotions given to SC and ST employees on the basis of reservation as a matter of ‘one-time catch-up’ policy. While the legal battle stalled restoring of posts to SC, ST employees, the reluctance of the state government to initiate a process despite a ‘no objection’ from the Supreme Court had left thousands of the employees in the lurch.
“The order should be deemed as the final closure since the Supreme Court has clarified that it isn’t a matter that needs to be pursued further. There should not be any scope for doubts now,” said Social
Welfare minister Priyank Kharge.
Priyank Kharge, however, insisted that restoring posts of SC and ST employees should not upset the current appointments. “It is our responsibility to ensure that nobody gets a raw deal. Promotions should be restored first, but those who have been appointed to those posts from non-SC/ST categories should be retained as well,” he said.
Officials from the Department of Personnel and Administrative Reforms believe that the government has enough vacancies to accommodate those who were demoted without affecting existing appointments across cadres.
Victory for social justice, says Congress
Congress legislature party chief Siddaramaiah, under whose chief ministership the reservation bill 2018 was passed, was the first to welcome the judgment. “I welcome the decision of Supreme Court for upholding our govt’s act, when I was @CMofKarnataka, on providing quota for SC/ST promotions for government employees. This will promote social justice as ppl from marginalized sections gets to lead imp posts &reduce discrimination (sic),” Siddaramaiah tweeted.
The Congress has hailed it as a victory for social justice. “SC has upheld our reservation policy for SC/ST employees in govt promotions. I welcome the judgment. This policy will provide much-needed opportunities for the historically marginalised to rise up the ladder & get representation in top echelons of power (sic),” tweeted Deputy Chief Minister G Parameshwara.
Though his government had been dilly-dallying on implementation of the consequential seniority act, Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy too welcomed the judgment. “I welcome the Supreme Court judgment upholding Reservation Act 2018 and the government is committed to protect the interests of the employees within the framework laid by the Constitution of India. The state govt’s intention of inclusiveness has been reiterated by this judgment,” he tweeted.