New Delhi, Aug 21: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Tuesday urged political parties to suggest ways for a legally sustainable solution to the issue of reservations in job promotions for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes and even hinted at a constitutional amendment for the purpose.
“The government is exploring the possible solution of the current situation…Your suggestions will be of immense help to decide on the issue…I request you to provide your valuable suggestions so that a legally sustainable solution may be arrived at,” the prime minister said in his opening remarks at the all-party meet convened by him at his official residence here.
According to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office, the meeting was called in the light of the Supreme Court judgment in April striking down the provision of reservation in promotions to members of the two sections in Uttar Pradesh.
Hinting at the possibility of bringing in a constitutional amendment, the prime minister said the government was committed to protecting the interests of the two sections of the society.
“You may be aware that the government had always been committed to protect the interests of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes and on certain occasions did not hesitate even to bring constitutional amendments,” he said.
According to the statement from the PMO, the Supreme Court in November 1992 held reservations in promotions as unconstitutional, but allowed its continuation for five years as a special case.
The 77th Amendment to the Constitution was made in 1995 inserting clause 4A to Article 16 before expiry of the five-year period, which enabled the government to continue reservation for the SCs and the STs in job promotions, the statement said.
The clause was further modified through the 85th Amendment to give benefit of consequential seniority to the SC/ST candidates promoted by reservation, said the statement.
The 81st Amendment also added clause 4B to Article 16, which permits to treat the backlog of reserved vacancies as a separate and distinct group, to which the limit of 50 percent may not apply.
This enabled the government to launch special recruitment drives to fill up the backlog vacancies reserved for the SCs/STs and Other Backward Classes (OBCs).
Later, the 82nd Amendment was made to the Constitution whereby a proviso was incorporated in Article 335 enabling the government to give relaxations/concessions to the SC and ST candidates in the matter of promotion, said the statement.
The validity of all these four amendments was challenged before the Supreme Court on the ground that these altered the Constitution’s basic structure, but the apex court in October 2006 upheld their validity.
However, the apex court stipulated that the state concerned will have to show in each case the existence of the compelling reasons, namely, backwardness, inadequacy of representation, and overall administrative efficiency before making provisions for reservation, the statement added.