[Aparna Singh, a student from National Law University, Jodhpur, analyzes the recent judgement delivered by the five-judge bench in the case of Jarnail Singh.]
In contemporary times, the debate on reservation in promotions has once again gained momentum. This Article analyses the recent judgement of Jarnail Singh v. Lachhmi Narain Gupta wherein the five-judge bench of the Supreme Court refused to refer the decision of M Nagraj v. Union of India to a larger bench for a decision on its correctness. The Article argues that the Court has incorrectly declined the reference of Nagraj to a bench of seven judges and further provides the grounds for reconsideration of Nagraj. In Nagraj, the Supreme Court imposed three conditions on the power of the State under Article 16(4A) to grant reservation in promotions in favour of SC/STs. These conditions have stirred controversy on the correctness of Nagraj. In Jarnail Singh, the five-judge bench has invalidated the condition of demonstrating backwardness of SC/STs as mandated by Nagraj. The decision of Jarnail Singh has raised critical questions of judicial propriety. The article has criticized the finding of the Court on the issue of creamy layer as vague and unwarranted. The article also provides a detailed account of subsequent cases that interpreted Nagraj. In Suresh Chand Gautam v. Union of India, the Supreme Court held that the State has no constitutional duty under Article 16(4A) to collect quantifiable date to determine inadequacy of representation of SC/STs in the services. The article criticizes the aforementioned case and argues that Article 16(4A) confers a power on the State coupled with duty to collect quantifiable data. The article concludes that a larger bench of seven judges should reconsider Nagraj and clarify the law on reservation in promotions.