Article 16 of the Constitution of India guarantees to all citizens equal opportunity in Public employment. It promises that no discrimination will render a citizen ineligible for any employment or office under the state, on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, residence or any of them. However, the Parliament will not be prevented from making any law in favour of any backward class of citizens, which is not adequately represented in any public employment. Clause 4A of Article 16 has been inserted by the Constitution (77th Amendment) Act, 1995. It empowers the Parliament to make provisions for reservation in matters of promotion, with consequential seniority. Clause 6 of the Article 16 has been inserted by Constitution (103rd Amendment) Act, 2019, and empowers the Parliament to make provisions for reservation in favour of any economically weaker sections of citizens in addition to the existing reservation and subject to a maximum of 10% of the posts in each category.
In this article, we will discuss the recent developments in Article 16 through important Supreme Court Judgements:
1. Chebrolu Leela Prasad Rao and Ors. V. State of A.P and Ors. (Civil Appeal No. 3609 and 7040 of 2002) decided on 22. 04. 2020
The question for consideration before the Supreme Court was whether notification issued by the Governor providing for 100% reservation in respect of appointment to posts of teachers in scheduled areas was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court held that due to the geographical disparity in public employment, Article 371D was inserted in the Constitution, allowing candidates from certain districts/zones to form local cadre for different posts for different parts of the States. By providing 100% reservation to Scheduled Tribes has deprived the other backward classes also of their due representation. As held in the Landmark judgment of Indra Sawhney, the concept of reservation was not proportionate but adequate. The opportunity of public employment could not be denied unjustly to the incumbments and it was not the prerogative of few. The citizens had equal rights, and the total exclusion of others by creating an opportunity for one class was not contemplated by the founding fathers of the Constitution of India. The action of the Governor was thus held unreasonable and arbitrary violating articles 14, 15 and 16 of the Constitution.
2. B.K Pavitra and Ors. V. Union of India AIR 2019 SC 2723
The petitioners in this case had challenged the validity of Karnataka Extension of Consequential seniority to Government servants promoted on basis of reservation (to posts in Civil services of the State) Act, 2018. Section 3 and 4 of the enactment provides for consequential seniority to persons belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes promoted under the reservation policy of the State of Karnataka. The constitutional validity of the Reservation Act, 2002 was challenged in B.K. Pavitra v. Union of India I. A two judge Bench of the Supreme Court held Sections 3 and 4 of the Reservation Act 2002 to be ultra vires of Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution on the ground that, an exercise for determining “inadequacy of representation”, “backwardness” and the impact on “overall efficiency” had not preceded the enactment of the law. Such an exercise was held to be mandated by the decision of a Constitution Bench in M. Nagaraj v. Union of India. In the absence of the State of Karnataka having collected quantifiable data on the above three parameters, the Reservation Act, 2002 was held to be invalid. The legislature enacted the Reservation Act, 2018 after Supreme Court invalidated the Reservation Act, 2002 in B.K. Pavitra I. The grievance of the Petitioners was that, the state legislature has virtually re-enacted the earlier legislation without curing its defects.
The supreme Court held that after the decision in B.K Pavitra I, the Ratna Prabha Committee was established and its report was examined by a Cabinet Sub-Committee which was eventually approved by the Cabinet. The Ratna Prabha Committee report was commissioned to: (i) collect information on cadre wise representation of SC and ST employees in all government departments; (ii) collect information on backwardness of SCs and STs; and (iii) study the effect on the administration due to the promotion of SCs and STs. Hence, the challenge to the constitutional validity of the Reservation Act 2018 was lacking in substance. Following the decision in B.K. Pavitra I, the State government duly carried out the exercise adverted to by the Constitution Bench in Nagaraj. The Reservation Act, 2018 has cured the deficiency which was noticed by B.K. Pavitra I in respect of the Reservation Act, 2002 and is Nagraj and Jarnail compliant.