Reservation in promotions could prove to be a game changer for the BJP

SC-ST votes could provide it a fighting edge to beat a not so united opposition

New Delhi.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday, September 26, observed there was no need to refer the judgment in M Nagaraj vs. Union of India, dealing with reservations in promotions for the SC/ST community, to a larger seven-judge constitutional bench.

The bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justices Kurien Joseph, RF Nariman, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Indu Malhotra, however, clarified that there is no requirement to collect quantifiable data of the backwardness of SC/STs to provide reservation in promotions.

In the 2006 judgment, the SC had held that it was not mandatory for the State to make reservations for SC/ST in the matter of promotions.

Earlier, in August 2018, the AG had told the SC the government wanted a 22.5% (15% for SC and 7.5% for ST) reservation for promotion of SC/ST in public employment. Only this quantum would satisfy their need for adequate representation.

The Centre had submitted before the court that there was no need to test the backwardness of employees from the SC/ST communities while granting promotions, as the court itself had observed in the 1992 Indra Sawhney case that the test of backwardness does not apply to them.

The Centre’s push for reservation in promotions for the community came amid massive protests over the apex court’s dilution of the SC/ST Atrocities Act.

The BJP is facing an uphill challenge in the upcoming Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan Assembly elections. (Photo: PTI)

Apart from facing protests from the community, even the BJP’s alliance partners like Ram Vilas Paswan were not happy with the SC’s ruling.

The BJP-ruled Centre, realising the damage antagonising the community could have on its electoral prospects, hurriedly moved a bill in Parliament to restore the original provisions of the Act.

The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill 2018 ruled out any provision for anticipatory bail for a person accused of atrocities against SC/STs, notwithstanding any court order.

Already facing protests from the community over apprehensions that the ruling party would do away with reservations, the BJP would not like to give more ammunition to the Opposition to paint it as an ‘upper caste’ party.

With Assembly elections scheduled for the end of the year, and facing the upcoming Lok Sabha polls, the Narendra Modi-led government wants to retain the community’s support it had earlier got in the 2014 elections.

The SC/ST community had voted overwhelmingly for the BJP, especially in the electorally crucial state of Uttar Pradesh, where the party decimated regional players like Mayawati’s BSP and walked away with a handsome tally of 73 (71 + 2 allies) out of 80 seats on offer.

The BJP is also facing an uphill challenge in the upcoming Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan Assembly elections.

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