Thursday, December 20, 2012

Reservation in promotions

The reservation in promotions for SC/STs Bill has been passed in the Rajya Sabha. Its passage in the Lok Sabha is awaited. Many of those who favour reservation for SC/STs at the point of entry are opposed to extending the principle to promotions. The merits of the Bill can be debated but the crucial thing to note is that the Bill will have to withstand any challenge in the  Supreme Court. The Hindu today carries an article that brings out the constitutional aspects very well.

There are two criteria of the Supreme Court that are relevant to any provision for reservation in promotions for SC/STs. One, such reservation must not come into conflict with requirements of efficiency. Two, the government must demonstrate lack of representation of the SC/STs by providing appropriate data. The article points that as part of the negotiation with the BJP, the UPA government agreed to drop an earlier provision in the Bill that would have allowed it to ignore concerns about efficiency. However, the present draft contends that the government need not demonstrate under-representation. The author writes:

The draft of the 117th Constitution Amendment Bill has a rather short-sighted response to the Supreme Court’s demand that the inadequacy of representation of the SCs/STs must be demonstrated on the basis of each cadre. In essence, the Supreme Court’s position is that if the state wants to provide quotas in promotions for clerks, it should demonstrate inadequate representation of the SCs/STs among clerks . The response of the 117th Constitution Amendment Bill is to remove any reference to the requirement of demonstrating inadequacy of representation. The Supreme Court’s demand that the cadre must be the basis for demonstrating inadequacy of representation is far from ideal. A cadre-based determination of inadequacy of representation of the SC/STs would not result in an accurate picture of representation of the SC/STs in public employment as a whole. The 117th Constitution Amendment Bill should have clarified that a cadre-based determination of inadequacy of representation was not required by the Constitution and that it would be sufficient for the State to demonstrate inadequacy of representation in public employment as a whole. Instead, the Bill that has been passed in the Rajya Sabha goes to the other extreme and no longer requires the state to demonstrate any sort of inadequacy of representation. 

I am not clear as to how quotas on promotions will work. Are we to suppose that there will be 22.5% reservation for SC/STs at each level- joint secretary, additional secretary, secretary- in the government? Or will governments settle for, say, representation in the office cadres as a whole? If SC/STs are adequately represented at the joint secretary and additional secretary level and in the services a whole but there are not enough of them at the secretary level, would this call for government intervention?

The implications of having 22.5% quota at every level should be evident. Promotion would become virtually independent of performance or any comparative evaluation of merit. However, if we don't have enough SC/STs at the senior levels, that could be construed as violative of the intent of the amendment proposed. A compromise would be settle for some rough indicators- at least 5-10% of SC/STs for all posts at senior levels in the aggregate. But, then, an argument could erupt about the numbers; some would say that anything short of 22.5% is discrimination.

I'm sympathetic to the idea of quotas in promotions but I'm afraid I can't see how quotas in promotions will operate or can be operated. Any suggestions?


Shobhit said...

I wonder why government is calling quota for promotion. I agree with the challenges to implement it and lack of clarity will be miss-used.

I cannot agree with continuing reservation in jobs which supersedes talent/ability to be in that position. But that’s me who probably doesn't see the so called backward classes.

Even on current ruling, I think government can reserve seats at all levels and fill them with proper appraisal and promotion of candidate. If right talent is not found then leave them vacant. Skills required for a level should not be compromised.

punit unisense said...

This is really a great news for scheduled castes...good to know this! razor wire