Relaxation of Qualifying Marks in Departmental Examination for SC and ST Candidates
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL NOs. 6046-6047 OF 2004
ROHTAS BHANKHAR & OTHERS … APPELLANT(s)
UNION OF INDIA AND ANOTHER .. RESPONDENT(s)
J U D G M E N T
On 23.12.1970 (1970 O.M.), the Department of Personnel issued Office Memorandum being O.M. No. 8/12/69-Estt.(SCT) relaxing standards in the case of Scheduled Castes/Tribes candidates in departmental competitive examinations and in departmental confirmation examinations. The said O.M. remained operative for about 17 years until O.M. No. 36012/23/96-Estt.(Res) dated 22.7.1997 was issued whereby the instructions contained in 1970 O.M. were withdrawn. Thereafter by Notification dated 30.11.1998, the Central Secretariat Service Section Officers’ Grade/Stenographers’ Grade ‘B (Limited Departmental Competitive Examination) Regulations, 1964 (for short “1964 Regulations”) were amended by Central Secretariat Service Section Officers’ Grade/Stenographers’ Grade ‘B (Limited Departmental Competitive Examination) Amendment Regulations, 1998 (for short “1998 Regulations”). The result of this amendment was that in 1964 Regulations, Regulation 7, sub-regulation (3) was omitted on and from 22.7.1997. The explanatory note appended to the above Notification reads as follows:
In compliance with the Supreme Court’s judgment in the case of S. Vinod Kumar vs. Union of India (JT 1996(8) SC 643), the Central Government decided to omit the provisions of regulation 7(3) of the Central Secretariat Service Section Officers’ Grade/Stenographers’ Grade ‘B’ (Limited Departmental Competitive Examination) Regulations, 1964 which provides for relaxed qualifying standard in favour of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes candidates to make up the deficiency in the reserved quota which has been rendered legally invalid and unenforceable. This is certified that no one is being adversely affected by giving this amendment retrospective effect.
2. In S. Vinod Kumar1, this Court relying upon Indra Sawhney2 held that provision for lower qualifying marks/standard of evaluation was not permissible under Article 16(4) of the Constitution of India in view of Article 335.
3. Though Article 16(4A) had been brought into Constitution by the Constitution (Seventy-seventh Amendment) Act, 1995 with effect from 17.6.1995, S. Vinod Kumar1 did not take into consideration this constitutional provision. In our view, S. Vinod Kumar1 is per incuriam.
4. Moreover by the Constitution (Eighty-second Amendment) Act, 2000, a proviso has been appended to Article 335 of the Constitution 1 (1996) 6 SCC 580, S. VINOD KUMAR & ANOTHER VS. UNION OF INDIA AND OTHERS2 1992 Supp (3) SCC 217, INDRA SAWHNEY VS. UNION OF INDIA AND OTHERS with effect from 8.9.2000. The proviso reads as follow:
Provided that nothing in this article shall prevent in making of any provision in favour of the members of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes for relaxation in qualifying marks in any examination or lowering the standards of evaluation, for reservation in mattes of promotion to any class or classes of services or posts in connect with the affairs of the Union or of a State.
5. On 8.10.1999, when special leave petitions, from which these appeals arise, came up for consideration before a two-Judge Bench, the Bench first formulated the point for consideration in the matter, viz., whether it was permissible for the authorities to fix lesser number of qualifying marks for reserved candidates in the matter of ‘promotion’. The Bench noticed three judgments of this Court; (1) Indra Sawhney2, (2) S. Vinod Kumar1 and (3) Kuldeep Singh3 and observed that in Kuldeep Singh3 the Court did not notice the observations of majority as well as observations of Sawant, J. in Indra Sawhney2, and the matter needed to be heard by a three-Judge Bench.
3 (1997) 9 SCC 199, SUPERINTENDING ENGINEER, PUBLIC HEALTH, U.T. CHANDIGARH AND OTHERS VS. KULDEEP SINGH & OTHERS
6. On 2.12.1999, the matter came up before a three-Judge Bench. The Bench on that day reiterated what was earlier stated by the two-Judge Bench in the order dated 08.10.1999 that in Kuldeep Singh3, the Bench had not referred to the majority decision in Indra Sawheny2. The Bench doubted the correctness of the decision in Kuldeep Singh3 and referred the matter to the Constitution Bench. In the reference order, the three-Judge Bench also noted the decision of this Court in Haridas Parsedia etc. vs. Urmila Shakya and others (Civil Appeal Nos. 6590-6592 of 1999 etc.) dated 19.11.1999 wherein it was observed that in the case of departmental promotion examination, which is held exclusively for SCs/STs, there could be reduction to the extent of 10% in the passing marks. As regards Haridas Parsedia (supra), the Bench observed that in that case, the observations of this Court in Indra Sawhney2 wherein it was laid down that there cannot be dilution of standards in matter of promotion was not noticed.
7. It is important to note here that constitutional validity of Article 16(4A) came up for consideration before the Constitution Bench in the case of M. Nagaraj4. In paras 97 to 99 (page 267) of the report, the Constitution Bench observed:
97. As stated above, clause (4-A) of Article 16 is carved out of clause (4) of Article 16. Clause (4-A) provides benefit of reservation in promotion only to SCs and STs. In S. Vinod Kumar v. Union of India this Court held that relaxation of qualifying marks and standards of evaluation in matters of reservation in promotion was not permissible under Article 16(4) in view of Article 335 of the Constitution. This was also the view in Indra Sawhney.
4. (2006)8 SCC 212 M. NAGARAJ AND OTHERS VS. UNION OF INDIA AND OTHERS
98. By the Constitution (Eighty-second Amendment) Act, 2000 a proviso was inserted at the end of Article 335 of the Constitution which reads as under :
“Provided that nothing in this article shall prevent in making of any provision in favour of the members of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes for relaxation in qualifying marks in any examination or lowering the standards of evaluation, for reservation in matters of promotion to any class or classes of services or posts in connection with the affairs of the Union or of a State.”
99. This proviso was added following the benefit of reservation in promotion conferred upon SCs and STs alone. This proviso was inserted keeping in mind the judgment of this Court in Vinod Kumar which took the view that relaxation in matters of reservation in promotion was not permissible under Article 16(4) in view of the command contained in Article 335. Once a separate category is carved out of clause (4) of Article 16 then that category is being given relaxation in matters of reservation in promotion. The proviso is confined to SCs and STs alone. The said proviso is compatible with the scheme of Article 16(4-A).
8. The conclusions recorded by the Constitution Bench in M. Nagaraj4 are also relevant and they read as under:
121. The impugned constitutional amendments by which Articles 16(4-A) and 16(4-B) have been inserted flow from Article 16(4). They do not alter the structure of Article 16(4). They retain the controlling factors or the compelling reasons, namely, backwardness and inadequacy of representation which enables the States to provide for reservationkeeping in mind the overall efficiency of the State administration under Article 335. These impugned amendments are confined only to SCs and STs. They do not obliterate any of the constitutional requirements, namely, ceiling limit of 50% (quantitative limitation), the concept of creamy layer (qualitative exclusion), the sub-classification between OBCs on one hand and SCs and STs on the other hand as held in Indra Sawhney, the concept of post-based roster with inbuilt concept of replacement as held in R.K. Sabharwal.
122. We reiterate that the ceiling limit of 50%, the concept of creamy layer and the compelling reasons, namely, backwardness, inadequacy of representation and overall administrative efficiency are all constitutional requirements without which the structure of equality of opportunity in Article 16 would collapse.
123. However, in this case, as stated above, the main issue concerns the “extent of reservation”. In this regard 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. As stated above, the impugned provision is an enabling provision. The State is not bound to make reservation for SCs/STs in matters of promotions. However, if they wish to exercise their discretion and make such provision, the State has to collect quantifiable data showing backwardness of the class and inadequacy of representation of that class in public employment in addition to compliance with Article 335. It is made clear that even if the State has compelling reasons, as stated above, the State will have to see that its reservation provision does not lead to excursiveness so as to breach the ceiling limit of 50% or obliterate the creamy layer or extend the reservation indefinitely.
124. Subject to the above, we uphold the constitutional validity of the Constitution(Seventy-Seventh (Amendment) Act;1995: the Constitution (Eighty-first Amendment) Act, 2000; the Constitution (Eighty-second Amendment) Act, 2000 and the Constitution (Eighty-fifth Amendment) Act, 2001.
9. We do not think, it is necessary for us to deal with the width and scope of Article 16(4A) any further. Insofar as Kuldeep Singh2 is concerned, we find that the matter was decided by this Court having regard to the constitutional provision contained in Article 16(4A). The view taken by this Court in Kuldeep Singh3 is in accord with constitutional scheme articulated in Article 16(4A). On the other hand, in S. Vinod Kumar1, the Court failed to consider Article 16(4A). As a matter of fact, Article 16(4A) was inserted in the Constitution to undo the observations in Indra Sawhney2 that there can not be dilution of standards in matters of promotion.
10. We are in respectful agreement with the decision in Kuldeep Singh3 and approve the same. Ordinarily, we would have sent the matter to the Regular Bench for disposal of the matter but having regard to the nature of controversy and the fact that the Central Administrative Tribunal, Delhi (for short “the Tribunal”) has followed S. Vinod Kumar1 which is not a good law and resultantly 1997 O.M. is also illegal, in our view, the agony of the appellants need not be prolonged as they are entitled to the reliefs.
11. Consequently, civil appeals are allowed. The impugned order is set-aside. 1997 O.M. is declared illegal. The respondents are directed to modify the results in the Section Officers/Stenographers (Grade B/Grade-I) Limited Departmental Competitive Examination, 1996 by providing for reservation and extend all consequential reliefs to the appellants, if not granted so far. No costs.
(JAGDISH SINGH KHEHAR)
(ROHINTON FALI NARIMAN)
NEW DELHI; JULY 15, 2014.
S U P R E M E C O U R T O F I N D I A
RECORD OF PROCEEDINGS
Civil Appeal No(s). 6046-6047/2004
ROHTAS BHANKHAR & ORS
U.O.I. & ANR
Date : 15/07/2014 These appeals were called on for hearing today.
HON’BLE THE CHIEF JUSTICE
HON’BLE MR. JUSTICE JAGDISH SINGH KHEHAR
HON’BLE MR. JUSTICE J. CHELAMESWAR
HON’BLE MR. JUSTICE A.K. SIKRI
HON’BLE MR. JUSTICE ROHINTON FALI NARIMAN
Dr. Krishan Singh Chauhan,Adv.
Mr. Ajit Kumar Ekka, Adv.
Mr. Ravi Prakash, Adv.
Mr. Chand Kiran, Adv.
Mr. Murari Lal, Adv.
Mr. Ranjit Kumar, SG
Mr. P.S. Patwalia, ASG
Mr. A. Mariarputham, Sr. Adv.
Ms. V. Mohana, Adv.
Ms. Binu Tamta, Adv. Adv.
Mr. D.L. Chidananda, Adv. for
Ms. Sushma Suri, Adv.
UPON hearing counsel the Court made the following
O R D E R
Civil Appeals are allowed in terms of reportable judgment.
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