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SC call on validity of ‘backwardness’ for SC/ST on Aug 3
A seven-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court will sit on August 3 to determine whether the test of backwardness as laid down in M Nagaraj case of 2006 should apply to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes while granting them promotions in jobs.
The Centre appealed to court for urgent hearing citing a backlog of three lakh posts in railways and other services where promotions were held up as SCs/STs claimed that once they have been declared backward, there is no need to prove backwardness at the time of promotion.
The court refused to pass any interim order against its 12-year-old verdict but agreed to deal with the constitutional question on August 3.
“You see, a reference has already been made for hearing the matter by a larger Bench. A seven-judge constitution bench needs to be constituted to consider M Nagaraj verdict which was heard by a five-judge Bench,” said a Bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud.
Attorney General KK Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, said the matter required urgent consideration as lakhs of jobs in Railways and the services were stuck due to confusion over various judicial pronouncements.
Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for one of the petitioners, contended that a lot of confusion has occurred due to conflicting judicial pronouncements given by different Benches of apex court and High Courts.
He said that one of the orders says there would be “status quo” as far as reservation in promotion to SC/ST employees are concerned, while another order by a Bench headed by Justice Kurian Joseph in a similar matter held that pendency of a petition before a court shall not stand in the way of the Centre taking steps for the purpose of promotion. Recently on June 5, a Vacation Bench of apex court allowed Centre to proceed with reservation in promotion for SC/ST in accordance with law. The AG agreed that conflicting orders were causing confusion.
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