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SC, ST promotions: Supreme Court declines govt plea for interim order

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New Delhi, July 22, 2020-

The Supreme Court on Wednesday declined to consider a plea by the Centre seeking clarification on its order, passed on April 15, 2019, to maintain status quo on reservation in promotion of SC/ST employees.

A bench of Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and Justice L. Nageswara Rao, making an oral observation, told Attorney General K.K. Venugopal, representing the Centre: “We are not going to disturb the order of status quo as of now in the interest of justice, we are keeping hearing of these reservation cases after 4 weeks.”

The AG submitted before the bench that more than 1.3 lakh vacancies are pending in 23 departments as of January 2020, and this could lead to resentment amongst government employees. He cited that government officers are working harder during the coronavirus pandemic.

He suggested that pending vacancies should be filled on an-hoc basis and there will be no question of merit because it will be only on seniority.

Counsel, representing the general category of employees, opposed the plea for passing any interim order in the matter. The advocates insisted that it should be heard in physical courts, instead in video conferencing.

The Chief Justice said whether a matter of this enormity can be done through video conferencing or through physical hearing, that a seven-judge committee will decide in four weeks. The bench noted that there are 60 cases, and it can identify a lead case and the other cases could be governed through this case. He noted the court cannot have 60 lawyers before it either in video conferencing or in physical court.

The AG insisted that the government will promote temporarily and they will function purely on the basis of seniority.

The Centre is concerned as on January 31, 2020, more than 1.3 lakh promotions were held up in 23 out of the total 78 departments. In its application, it sought permission from the top court to make “ad hoc promotions to the large number of vacant posts”, which will be subjected to the outcome of the cases.

The Centre, justifying its application contended that previously the court, by its order on May 17, 2018 and June 5, 2018, permitted it to go ahead with the promotions. The Delhi High Court on August 23, 2017 quashed the office memorandum of August 13, 1997, which provided reservation in promotions to the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs).  (Agency)

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