THE Supreme Court today unanimously upheld a statute providing for consequential seniority in reservations in promotion in the state of Karnataka, stating that it was inclusive development and not meritocracy that should inform substantive equality.
Consequential seniority means seniority with effect from the date of promotion in a promoted cadre.
Pronouncing the judgment in B.K. Pavitra v. State of Karnataka on behalf of himself and Justice U U Lalit, Justice Chandrachud, said that the Karnataka statute in question had complied with the tests drawn out by a five judge bench in M. Nagaraj v. Union of India which laid down the need for quantifiable data on compelling factors of backwardness and representation, and to ensure that there was no harm to the efficiency of administration prior to a state making any law granting reservations in promotions for public employment.
It may be recalled that the Supreme Court in Jarnail Singh v. Lachmi Narrain had read down these conditions and eliminated the need for quantifiable data for showing backwardness in the reserved category.
While upholding the statute to provide reservations in promotions, Justice Chandrachud said under Article 16(4) of the Constitution of India, the State had the enabling power to make a law on this subject and the empirical data so gathered must comply with the subjective satisfaction of the State.
The data that had been gathered illustrated the under-representation of reserved category employees, i.e. SC/ST employees in public employment, and that promotions of reserved category employees did not affect efficiency of administration.
The court held that the constitutional challenge by members of the non-reserved category against the law lacked substance. The case came before the Supreme Court as a writ petition filed under Article 32 of the Constitution.