No reservations in promotions in public sector banks, clarifies Supreme Court

No reservations in promotions in public sector banks, clarifies Supreme Court

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On 9 January 2015, the Supreme Court had held that to carry out promotions in public sector banks from Scale-I upwards upto Scale-VI, reservation in promotion in favour of SC/ST employees has to be given (see here). Now, one year later, on 8 January 2016, the Supreme Court has admitted that it had committed a mistake in making such observations in the said judgment of 2015 and has now held that there was no such reservation in promotions in the public sector banks. This decision of the Supreme Court came while reviewing the said earlier decision on the basis of review petitions filed by the Government of India and the banks concerned. The latest full judgment of the Supreme Court can be seen here.

In the review petitions before the Supreme Court, Mukul Rohatgi, the Attorney General, pointed out that a fundamental error had crept in in paragraph 34 of the previous judgment (9 January 2015) of the Supreme Court wherein it was observed that reservation is provided in promotion by selection qua those posts which carry an ultimate salary of less than 5,700 (pre-revised). He pointed out that in the earlier portion of the same paragraph, the Supreme Court had reiterated, after detailed discussion, that there is no reservation in promotion by selection in Group-A posts which carry an ultimate salary of ₹5,700 per month and in such cases it is only the concession that applies. He further submitted that in such a situation, OM dated November 08, 2005 issued by the Department of Enterprises had no relevance at all. He further submitted that promotions were only up to Scale VI in these banks as the hierarchical structure would reveal that Scale VII and above were in fact Board level posts which are filled up by the Government and not by the Departmental Promotion Committee of the concerned banks. He argued that because of the aforesaid error in the judgment (9 January 2015), the benefit was bestowed by giving reservations to the officers belonging to SC/ST category from Scale I to Scale VI. He further demonstrated that in these banks, there were four categories of employees, namely, sub-staff (Class IV), clerical, officers and Board level posts. The promotions were provided from sub-staff to clerical as well as from clerical to junior management grade (Scale-I). However, there was no further promotion from Scale-I upward. The Attorney General further argued that the entire case of the employees was based on OM dated August 13, 1997 and relying upon the same, the employees had argued that this OM provides for reservation. However, this precise contention of the employees was specifically turned down and repelled by the Supreme Court by interpreting the said OM to mean that it does not provide for any reservation, but only gives certain concessions to the employees belonging to SC/ST categories while considering their cases for promotion. As a consequence, no further discussion was required in the said previous judgment (9 January 2015) of the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court agreed with the submissions of the Attorney General. It observed that in paragraph Nos. 26 to 32 of the previous judgment (9 January 2015), after interpreting OM dated August 13, 1997, it was categorically held that this OM does not provide for any reservation. The Court observed that this was so stated in the opening lines of paragraph 34 as well by emphasizing that there is no reservation in promotion by selection within Group-A posts, which carry an ultimate salary of 5,700 per month and it is only concession that applies. This conclusion was followed with the observation that contention of the banks in this behalf had been accepted. The Supreme Court admitted its mistake by observing that in spite thereof, in the very next line of paragraph 34 of the previous judgment, it is observed (read the previous judgment, here):

“34… Significantly, what follows is that reservation is provided in promotion by selection qua those posts which carry an ultimate salary of less than ₹5,700 per month (pre-revised).”

The Supreme Court admitted that it is clearly an error on the face of the record inasmuch as no such consequence follows. It also admitted that the aforesaid quoted portion is directly in conflict with not only the earlier portion of paragraph 34, but the entire conclusion on the issue on which there is a detailed discussion from paragraph Nos. 26 to 32 and even in earlier paragraphs of the judgment (9 January 2015). The Supreme Court admitted that it is this error, which is apparent on the face of the record, viz. the reservation is provided in promotion by selection respect of posts carrying salary of less than 5,700 per month, that has led to further error that such  reservation in the matter of promotion is applicable from Scale I upward up to Scale VI.

In view of these reasons, the Supreme Court allowed the review petitions by deleting paragraph Nos. 33 to 36 of its earlier judgment dated 9 January 2015 and the directions contained therein, as well as the directions contained in paragraph No. 37 thereof. Instead, after paragraph No. 32 of the aforesaid earlier judgment dated 9 January 2015, following paragraph was directed to be inserted:

“33. Result of the aforesaid discussion would be to allow these appeals and set aside the judgment of the High Court. While doing so, we reiterate that it is for the State to take stock of the ground realities and take a decision as to whether it is necessary to make a provision for reservation in promotions from Scale I to Scale II and upward, and if so, up to which post. The contempt petition also stands disposed of.”

Thus, the legal position after this new judgment of the Supreme Court dated 8 January 2016 is that there is no reservation in favour of SC/ST category officers in promotions in public sector banks from Scale I to Scale VI or above.

The latest full judgment of the Supreme Court can be seen here.

About Dr. Ashok Dhamija

Dr. Ashok DhamijaDr. Ashok Dhamija is a New Delhi based Supreme Court Advocate, holds Ph.D. in Constitutional Law, is author of 3 law books, and is an ex-IPS officer. He is the founder of this law portal. Read more by clicking here. List of his articles. List of his Forum Replies. List of his Quora Answers.

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