M. Nagaraj vs Union of India - Landmark Case
M. Nagaraj & Others vs Union of India - Supreme Court Case Summary of Leading Case -
On 19th October, 2006, a Constitution Bench in M. Nagaraj & Others vs Union of India & Others [Writ Petition (Civil) No.61 of 2002] while dealing with a bunch of writ petitions under Article 32 of the Constitution examined the 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. It was inter alia urged in the petitions that the impugned amendments overruled judicial pronouncements of the Supreme Court viz. the Seventy-Seventh amendment introduced Article 16(4A) providing reservation in promotion which had the effect of nullifying the decision in the case of Indra Sawhney; that the Eighty-First Amendment introduced Article 16(4B) which nullified the effect of the decision in R.K. Sabharwal, in which it was held that carry forward vacancies cannot be filled exceeding 50% of the posts; that similarly the EightySecond Amendment introduced proviso to Article 335 which nullified the effect of the decision in Indra Sawhney and a host of other cases, which emphasize the importance of maintaining efficiency in administration and that the Eighty-fifth Amendment adding the words ‘with consequential seniority’ in Article 16(4A) nullified the decision in Ajit Singh (II).
Answering the reference, the Bench held that “the impugned constitutional amendments by which Articles 16(4A) and 16(4B) 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 reservation keeping 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 subclassification between OBC on one hand and SCs and STs on the other hand as held in the Indra Sawhney case, the concept of post-based Roster with in-built concept of replacement as held in R.K. Sabharwal.”
Reiterating 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”, the Bench held that “the concerned State 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.”
The Bench added that the “impugned provision” is only “an enabling provision”, and the “State is not bound to make reservation for SC/ST in matter 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 of Article 335.” The Bench made it 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 excessiveness so as to breach the ceiling-limit of 50% or obliterate the creamy layer or extend the reservation indefinitely”.
Subject to above, the Bench upheld the constitutional validity of the impugned Constitutional amendments.