Employees Entitled To Avail Benefits of Reservations In Successor States Where They Were Allocated - SC
A Supreme Court Bench of Justice Uday Umesh Lalit, Justice S. Ravindra Bhat and Justice PS Narasimha set aside a judgment passed by the Division Bench of the Jharkhand High Court regarding the applicability of a ST certificate from Bihar in successor states.
The Bench has held that under the Bihar Reorganization Act, 2000 the employees are entitled to avail benefits of reservations in successor states where they were allocated.
While relying on the precedent Pankaj Kumar v. State of Jharkhand, the Bench observed -
"As has been clarified in the decision in Pankaj Kumar such of the employees who opt for service under a successor State after reorganization, their existing service conditions would not be varied to their disadvantage and would stand protected by virtue of Section 73 of the Act. Further, subject to the condition that such person would not be entitled to claim the benefit of reservation simultaneously in both the successor States, such employees would be entitled to claim not only the benefit of reservation in the service of the successor State to which they had opted and were allocated, but they would also be entitled to participate in any subsequent open competition with the benefit of reservation."
The judges have authored the judgments separately.
Mr. Manoj Tandon appeared on behalf of the Appellant. Additional Advocate General Mr. Arunabh Chowdhury appeared for the State of Jharkhand and Mr. Himanshu Shekhar appeared on behalf of the Jharkhand Public Service Commission.
The Appellant was appointed to the post of a Cooperative Development Officer by the Bihar Public Service Commission, under the Scheduled Tribe category, and his candidature was supported by a Certificate claiming that he belonged to ST category. When Bihar was bifurcated, the Appellant was allocated to Jharkhand, where he began service. Subsequently, a letter was issued regarding reservation in promotion in various categories of services in Jharkhand. An advertisement was issued by the Jharkhand Public Service Commission for the posts of Deputy Collectors by way of limited department examination, but the benefit of reservation would only be extended to those who submit the appropriate caste Certificate obtained from the Sub-Divisional Officer posted in State of Jharkhand.
The Appellant offered his candidature, but when the results of the examination were announced, he was declared unsuccessful, even though he had secured more than the cut-off for the ST category.
The Appellant challenged his non-selection by filing a Writ Petition, and the Judge of the High Court opined that the State of Jharkhand must treat the Appellant as an ST candidate, as he was allocated the Jharkhand State cadre as a Scheduled Tribe after the reorganization of the State, and therefore the Commission must consider his candidature. Aggrieved by this order, the Commission and the State preferred an appeal before the Division Bench of the High Court. The Bench found that since the Appellant failed to comply with the condition of submitting the appropriate caste Certificate obtained from the Sub-Divisional Officer posted in State of Jharkhand, and since there was no certificate issued by any of the competent authorities that he belonged to ST category in Jharkhand, the Appellant could not be said to be belonging to the reserved category of STs for the purposes of limited departmental examination.
Aggrieved, the Appellant moved before the Supreme Court.
The Counsel for the Appellant contended that the ST category the Appellant belonged to is part of the Constitution [Scheduled Tribes] Order, 1950 in both Bihar and Jharkhand. Further, it was contended that since the Appellant had been in service in the undivided State of Bihar and his services were allocated to State of Jharkhand, he was entitled to the benefits and protection under Sections 72 and 73 of the Bihar Reorganization Act, 2000. The Counsel also contended that those who are competent and are found meritorious in the limited departmental examination, can be promoted even if they are comparatively juniors, as against the regular mode of promotion, and that a limited departmental examination can only be taken by those who are in service. Therefore, it was contended that as the Appellant belonged to the ST category, he would be entitled to claim the benefit of reservation in promotion even with respect to service under State of Jharkhand after reorganization.
The Counsels appearing on behalf of the Respondents reiterated that since the Appellant had failed to submit the appropriate caste Certificate obtained from the Sub-Divisional Officer posted in State of Jharkhand, noncompliance of said condition disentitled him from claiming to belong to ST category in the State. However, the Counsels did admit that the Appellant would be entitled to claim belonging to the ST category if a regular promotion was in issue.
Justice Uday Umesh Lalit's Analysis:
Relying on the case of Pankaj Kumar vs State of Jharkhand, the it was opined that the employees who opt for service under a successor State after reorganization, their existing service conditions would not be varied to their disadvantage and would stand protected by virtue of Section 73 of the Act.
In furtherance, it was opined that "subject to the condition that such person would not be entitled to claim the benefit of reservation simultaneously in both the successor States, such employees would be entitled to claim not only the benefit of reservation in the service of the successor State to which they had opted and were allocated, but they would also be entitled to participate in any subsequent open competition with the benefit of reservation."
Justice S. Ravindra Bhat's Analysis:
Relying on a catena of judgments including Marri Chandra Shekhar Rao v. Dean Seth GS Medical College, it was opined that since state reorganization occur as a consequence of political demands or as an articulation of regional aspiration, the members from the SC or ST communities have no agency.
To that end, it was opined that "There is, consequently, an obligation on the part of Parliament, to provide clarity about the kind of protection, regarding the status of such individuals forced to chose one among the newly reorganized states, and ensure that they are not worse off as a result of reorganization."
Further, it was also opined that the duty of providing clarity and protection has to be consistent during state organization, since if the protection is greater then it would defeat the command of Articles 14 and 15(1) of the Constitution of India.
Therefore, the Bench allowed the appeal and set aside the order passed by the Division Bench of the High Court, while upholding the judgment of the Single Judge of the High Court.