Reality Check India

Constitutional amendment around the corner in promotions quota

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on May 20, 2012

Normally a constitutional amendment would make front page news and generate a ton of debate, columnists would explore the issue in detail, the media would cover life stories.  In a tiny story tucked away in an obscure corner, I noticed that the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has swung into action and has convened an all party meet on May 23th.

The rupee is tanking, the economy has slowed down, crushing power crisis threatens to shut plants, maoists rule the heartland, farmers die, FDI policy is on ventilator, telecom lawsuits and international arbitration loom, budget deficits are out of control, scams and scandals everywhere. None of these could move the PM – yet a ruling by a 2 Judge bench, which we shall see shortly has been misinterpreted, can make the entire political class sit up.

I’ll try my best to throw some light on the matter in this post. Hopefully I can get atleast a dozen more to pay attention to this fundamental issue.

The background

In Indra Sawhney  the majority (8-1)  of the judges held that even though the concept of reservations to backward classes as far as entry into the services was justified, quota in promotions was not.  Once a reserved and unreserved candidate enter the service stream at the same level – the mechanism for moving up to the next level was based mostly on seniority and claims of  past oppression had no role to play. Incidentally, the  Indra Sawhney bench had nothing to do with reservation in promotions – the Narasimha Rao government made a reference to the court ; “while you are at it,  settle this too”.  In any case, it quashed all reservations in promotions while upholding them at entry level.

The political response was swift and the 77th amendment was adopted to obliterate the position of Indra Sawhney.

Thus Article 16(4A) was born.


2. Amendment of article 16.-In article 16 of the Constitution, after clause (4), the following clause shall be inserted, namely:-

“(4A) Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any provision for reservation in matters of promotion to any class or classes of posts in the services under the State in favour of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes which, in the opinion of the State, are not adequately represented in the services under the State.”.

I have to stop here for a minute.

To follow the matter further you need to understand three key concepts in promotions.  I am no expert but I have been tracking this issue for years now, so I invite folks in public service to correct any errors.

The concepts are  1) the roster system 2) the catch up rule and 3) consequential seniority.

The roster system

Say you have a department of 100 positions. These positions dont open up all at once rather vacancies arise sporadically due to retirement, transfer, promotion, deaths etc . The roster system is the instrument of choice to allocate these vacancies. For example you have a 10-point roster which might say vacancy 1=Open 2=SC 3=SC 4=Open.. until 10=OC.  The roster would then rotate.  The key to note is if a reserved vacancy arises it can only be filled by members of that group, if an open vacancy arises it can be filled by anyone including reserved category members.

The catch-up rule 

Quotas in promotion naturally allow leap-frogging.  Consider this :  Two candidates A (open) and B (reserved) are in the same class of service Grade 1.  Say, A is 5 years senior to B and both are awaiting promotion to the next level ,Grade 2.  B now gets promoted over A due to the roster system. Eventually say after 3 years A also gets the promotion to the same grade as B. What happens now ? Under the catch up rule – A will regain his seniority of 5 years over B because he was denied promotion in the first place due to the roster.  This means for the open category vacancy in Grade 3 – A has  restored his old seniority of 5 years  (ie caught up) over B.

Consequential seniority 

The exact opposite of the catch up rule above.  Now A and B are in Grade 2 – B has been there for 3 years and A has recently been promoted.  Under consequential seniority,  A is now junior to B. The fact that he was 5 years senior to B before the roster system leap frogged B is deemed immaterial. For further promotion to Grade 3 – even for open category vacancies as per the roster – A will be considered 3 years junior to B. In other words, he has lost 8 years inter se B.

Now go back to the 77th amendment. As you can see, consequential seniority confers a permanent blow to the unreserved candidate.  Several states employed a variation of this and the matter same to a 5 judge? bench of the Supreme Court in R.K Sabharwal vs State of Punjab 1995.  The court ruled consequential seniority as unconstitutional.  This was reaffirmed over the next 5 years in several cases. In 2001 it was brought again to the court in M.G. Badappananvar vs Karnataka 2001.   Due to consequential seniority general category candidates in Karnataka had retired without due promotions  while their juniors were in higher posts. Many still in service at junior levels approached for relief.  The court restored the seniority (applied catch up) of several general category candidates in this decision. This was totally in accordance with RK Sabharwal established  5 years ago.

The political class, this time the NDA government acted fast. They introduced  the 85th constitutional amendment that specifically inserted the word “promotion with consequential seniority” in Art 16(4A). Recall from before that 16(4A) was inserted to nullify Indra Sawhney. The new clause reads as follows.


(2) It shall be deemed to have come into force on the 17th day of June, 1995.


Now 16 (4A) reads

“(4A) Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any provision for reservation in matters of promotion, with consequential seniority  to any class or classes “in matters of promotion, with consequential seniorityof posts in the services under the State in favour of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes which, in the opinion of the State, are not adequately represented in the services under the State.”.

In one stroke the amendment obliterated  established positions in Sabharwal, Ajit Singh, Badappananvar, and a few more.  You may have missed that the amendment was made retroactive from 1995 (6 years earlier) – which means seniority lists could be redone.

The UP situation today

Now you have enough background to understand the UP situation today and the agenda for the all party meet.

There has been a tug of war between Mayawati and Mulayam over the past 10 years. Once the 85th amendment was passed Mayawati + BJP  promptly redid the lists based on consequential seniority effectively minimizing chances of general candidates. Note that  for promotion purposes OBC and Minority are general candidates.  Mulayam cancelled it later. Mayawati restored it the first thing she came back in 2007.  The net effect today is that a sufficiently large number of employees of various govt outfits were hurt by these provisions.  A 2009 report shows deep discontent in UP Power Corporation . A group of employees approached the court and sought a remedy.  In Mukund Kumar Srivastava vs State of UP, the Allahabad high court cancelled the quota system along with consequential seniority. This was because the quota or even consequential seniority was unconstitutional – they cant be due to Art 16(4A).  The UP government had not conducted any exercise or produced any data to support this quota.

The UP government appealed in the Supreme Court.  On Apr 27, a 2 judge bench of Dalveer Bhandari and D. Misra upheld the earlier order of the Allahabad High Court (Rajesh Kumar Vs UP Power Corporation 2012).  It is important to note the scope of the judgment

  • The constitutionality of reservations in promotions was not challenged
  • The consequential seniority (so called clause 8A in judgment) in UP was not challenged
  • The judgment only hinges on the “.. are not adequately represented“. This sentence in Art 16(4A) requires some homework from the state. Indeed, this is the last wall of defence against total arbitrariness.

What can be amended ?

As you have seen the 77th and 85th amendments have already gone a long distance. What else can give way ?  In M. Nagaraj vs Union of India 2006  a constitutional bench had ruled that data related to inadequate representation  is necessary to activate Art 16(4A).  The court following the  Nagaraj judgment is only asking for data about inadequate representation – why not simply submit that record and everyone is happy.

The only way Rajesh Kumar can be obliterated is by removing the need to collect data. This is purely my opinion, we will see how things will turn out in the all party meet in 2 days time.

“(4A) Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any provision for reservation in matters of promotion, with consequential seniority  to any class or classes “in matters of promotion, with consequential seniorityof posts in the services under the State in favour of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes which, in the opinion of the State, are not adequately represented in the services under the State.”.

If agreed upon – this will be the 117th Constitutional Amendment proposed and if passed it will be the 98th Amendment.

Where do politicians stand ?

Long time readers of my blog will instantly recognize that contemporary Indian politics is a mere sideshow – the driving force is the adhocism in conferring benefits which make the masses ignore big issues and vote for benefit protection.  There is unanimity – uncommon unanimity on this issue.  In fact, they will fight with each other to rush to an amendment.  Nuance and measured positions will be seen as a ploy to scrutinize and snatch away the all important  power of adhocism.  Prakash Javadekar of the BJP, Karat of CPI-M and all others  dont even want the all party meet, calling it wasting precious time.

“There is already a consensus on the issue among all parties…There is no point delaying it by calling an all party meeting to build a consensus,” Prakash Javadekar (BJP) said.

Akhilesh Yadav’s position isnt what the media is telling you. He supports the amendment but with OBCs included in the protection.

Some are blaming others for not beating the Nagaraj judgment earlier.

The National Commission for SCs repeatedly asked the Centre to join the battle against Nagaraj case by becoming a party to the appeals filed in the Supreme Court. It wanted the government to argue that parts of the Nagaraj judgment — seeking data to prove backwardness of dalits to make them eligible for promotion – were unconstitutional. Source TOI

Salman Kursheed hates the 50% ceiling (tangential to main issue – but related to minorities).

Khurshid said the primary restriction of 50 per cent maximum limit for reservation in jobs for SCs, STs and OBCs “ties the hands of the government” in doing much for them in proportion to their population.

The MP’s throw a fit over an illustration of Ambedkar – yet think of nothing to amend his constitution 117 times.  C’est la vie.

15 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Dr Satyendra Nath Pandey said, on May 21, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    I am certain, no political party is honest enough to talk on the issue fearlessly and truthfully. All are appeasing sch castes in race to capture their votes. BJP has silently betrayed the people and that is how it is where it ought to be now. Such tactics don’t last long. It is shame, leaders of today still believe in dividing the society on the caste lines when disparity on this basis does not exist any more. There is no natural justice in promotion quota at all. In all reservation cases, it is creamy layer alone that derives benefits. Hardly any entry from the rest of the oppressed population takes place in fresh recruitment and that too in lower level positions. It is high time, the relevant clause on ‘Reservation on Promotion’ is altogether is removed. People are watching the developments with interest. Satyendra

    • jagadish Soman said, on December 22, 2012 at 4:01 am

      ‘It is shame, leaders of today still believe in dividing the society on the caste lines when disparity on this basis does not exist any more”.

      Has really disparity on caste lines vanished as you mentioned above. The matrimonial pages of any newspaper is a glaring example of how much caste still exists.

      May be, we have been able to remove caste related discussion and other forms of public manifestation of it, but, Caste is strong when it comes to our personal life and choices.Most of the social gatherings reflect this reality.Sad, but true.

      And, I believe political parties are reflection of the society at large.To blame them for dividing society, is probably not reasonable in totality.If they do such things for political compulsion its premise rest on the fact that we vote on the basis of religion and caste.

      For a liberated mind, no political party can betray him because he is not forced to vote for any particular party.

  2. WordOfTheFree (@WordOfTheFree) said, on June 5, 2012 at 6:19 am

    Sir. This one seriously freaked me out. Political Parties, while behaving dangerously have a serious problem – they just cannot be seen as anti-reservation by objecting to even a little clause. That way lies surefire decimation politically and electorally. I wonder how Shourie put up with this nonsense even as NDA managed to commit such serious blunders in the consequential seniority issue.
    Given that there are consistent electoral gains in competitively keeping communities hooked onto quotas and increasing them – I wonder if the only solution is for a true Self Respect movement to start socially among the ‘now-well-off-but-erstwhile-depressed classes’.
    Discrimination was a social problem. The State interfered and worsened it. The only way out is a social solution that takes the sheen off the victim-hood complex.

  3. vikas g. said, on August 22, 2012 at 2:50 am

    Reblogged this on नेता जी कहिन.

  4. srinivas said, on September 5, 2012 at 8:35 am

    Your blog really freaked me out and left me speechless. I now understand the meaning of “feeling beyond disgusted”. Thank you for getting into the nuances and explaining it in detail.

  5. rahul said, on October 2, 2012 at 6:16 am

    Sir the article was really beneficial for me….

  6. umamaheswar said, on October 8, 2012 at 9:04 am

    very informative sir.

  7. pankaj said, on December 14, 2012 at 5:46 am

    how much time will it take to become effective say in terms of calendar year or months?

  8. […] A constitutional amendment bill was passed yesterday in the Rajya Sabha. This is the 117th Amendment bill which I had discussed in depth in May 2012 in “Constitutional amendment around the corner“ […]

  9. akshar100 said, on December 22, 2012 at 2:19 am

    Reblogged this on Akshar Smriti and commented:
    This is horrible!

  10. jagadish Soman said, on December 22, 2012 at 3:45 am

    I agree with yours views that reservation in promotion is a disastrous idea.However, if i totally reject the idea of providing “reservation for Sc/St”, then I am being insensitive to the cumulative discrimination meted out to them by our ancestors.So, let reservation at the entry level be there as it provides equality of opportunity.

    Case of Promotion: I reckon the lack of representation of this community in the upper echelon of services is the broader concern, which is empirically true.

    Probably, the reason for this is the average age of entry, of the people from reserved category( I have read it as 30-31) whereas general category is 24-25.So, with seniority being the criteria, they would never be able to reach at the top level of bureaucracy.

    This can be resolved by providing them with, may be, 35 years of service, so that they are provided with equality of opportunity.So, if they are meritorious they would get promoted and hence, better representation.

    • Kumar J said, on December 31, 2013 at 3:35 pm

      I think Mr. Jagdish Soman has written this post on the basis of assumptions or on the basis of illusions created by the media. Reserved category people are not weak nor they need reservations, only thing they need is equal opportunity without any discrimination and the best way for this is abolish the surname system and caste system. If he does not knows the things, I can give a number of examples, a person nelonging to SC/ST when enters the job, faces challenges from the subordinates as well as seniors i.e. mental harassment throughout the carrier, given postings which does not give recognition and during the retirement time it is said they do not have adequate experience and so they don’t get the important postings ever in their life.In teaching or research they are provided the facilities, they are never made vice chancellors while persons from general categories are made vice chancellors thrice some four times and even some more than four times while persons from scheduled castes are not given these posts. Same is the case with the governor posts, a person is given that post for more than two terms if they belong to general category while persons from SC ST not given a chance to become governor if they are not from a high political background and that too very rarely. SO THE SYSTEM IS CORRUPT and its not that SC or ST’s are weak anywhere

  11. DHANANJAY SINGH said, on June 29, 2016 at 8:18 pm

    Very well written. Thanks it helped me a lot regarding reservation in promotion topic.

  12. Dhananjay Singh said, on July 12, 2016 at 10:53 pm

    I just feel like crying.Even if I was from reserved category, i would still hate this very much.All leaders are shameless.These peoples are hindering growth and development of the country for their political gain.Again, we can just sit and mourn.These are the worst.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: