This case is of utter importance in the field of reservation in promotions. This case is a bunch of writ petitions that challenged the validity of the Karnataka Extension of Consequential Seniority to Government Servants Promoted on the Basis of Reservation (To the Posts in the Civil Service of the State) Act 2018. This Act, besides other things, provides consequential seniority to persons belonging to Scheduled Castes and Tribals who are promoted under the reservation policy of the State in Karnataka. Consequential Seniority Rule means where candidates from the reserved category are allowed to retain seniority over the general category candidates. In a simplified manner, it means that if a reserved category candidate is promoted before a general category candidate because of reservation in promotion, then for the subsequent promotion the reserved category retains seniority.
The Reservation Act of 2018 was preceded in time by the Karnataka Determination of Seniority of the Government servants on the basis of the Reservation (to the posts in the Civil Services of the State) Act 2002. The constitutional validity of the Reservation Act 2002 was challenged in BK Pavitra v Union of India case which is also known as BK Pavitra I case. It was observed in this case by a two-judge bench that Section 3 and Section 4 of the Reservation Act 2002 is ultra vires Article 14 and Article 16 of the Indian Constitution. In another case I.e. M Nagraj v Union of India case it was held by the Supreme Court that the Reservation Act 2002 was invalid. And they also laid down three parameters on which the State could collect quantifiable data and on that basis, they can give Reservation in promotions. Now the Constitution Bench held that the State is not bound to make reservations for SCs and STs in promotions, however, if they want they must collect quantifiable data on three parameters. The three parameters are the backwardness of class, the inadequacy of the representation of that class in public employment, and the general efficiency of service as mandated by Article 335 would not be affected.
However, in the year 2018, the Reservation Act 2018 was enacted by the legislature in the State of Karnataka. Now in this case I.e. BK Pavitra and others v Union of India and others, also known as BK Pavitra II case, the petitioners stated that the state legislature had virtually re-enacted the earlier legislation without curing the defects. The petitioners questioned both the process and the outcome of the exercise carried out by the State for collective quantifiable data for making this enactment in the Reservation Act 2018.
After the declaration of the Reservation Act 2002 as invalid, the State of Karnataka created the Ratna Prabha Committee to submit a quantitative report based In the three parameters that were directed by the Court in Nagraj case. And based on the report that was issued by the Ratna Prabha Committee the Reservation Act of 2018 was passed by Karnataka.
The main issues or questions that arose, in this case, was whether the Reservation Act 2018 was overruling the legislative orders that were passed in the case of BK Pavitra I. The Court regarding this issue stated that Dr Dhavan is entirely correct in this regard. To check the constitutional validity of Reservation Act 2018 the Court have to check it violates Article 14 and Article 16 of Constitution. The Court opined that this was not a legislative overruling. Another issue was whether the Reservation Act 2018 was following the judgment in the Nagraj case. In this regard, the Court needed to examine the reports that were issued by the Ratna Prabha Committee. However, the Court also stated that its power is limited regarding certain things. So, the Court can only strike down the laws if it is found arbitrary. The Court started to look at the report that was issued by Ratna Prabha Committee and analyzed if the parameters were properly considered. The Court stated that the methodology which was adopted by the Ratna Prabha Committee has not been observed as alien or unconventional to social sciences methodology. The Court for the stated that the whole collection of data cannot be termed invalid on the ground that some entities were not analyzed. Thus, the Court stated that they were unable on to find the Committee has made the report based on any extraneous or irrelevant material. They also added that however, the Court has certain limitations on the power of judicial review in entering upon a factual arena involving gathering, collation and analysis of data. The court also looked into the issue of creamy layer. The Court opined that the concept of the creamy layer has no relevance to the grant of consequential seniority. In the Reservation Act of 2018, the principle of consequential seniority is not an additional benefit but a consequence of the promotion which is granted to the SCs and STs. Therefore the submission in the issue of creamy layer is not per curium.
Finally, the Supreme Court gave the verdict. The Court stated that the Reservation Act 2018 is valid and it does not amount to usurpation of judicial power by the state legislature.