Common class not ‘quota’; it’s open to all: SC

Satya Prakash

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 19

Maintaining that general category vacancies in government employment were open to all, including those from reserved categories, the Supreme Court has said disallowing meritorious candidates from reserved categories to migrate to general category would amount to communal reservation.

“The principle that candidates belonging to any of the vertical reservation categories are entitled to be selected in “Open or General Category” is well settled. It is also well accepted that if such candidates belonging to reserved categories are entitled to be selected on the basis of their own merit, their selection cannot be counted against the quota reserved for the categories for vertical reservation that they belong,” a Bench of Justice UU Lalit, Justice Ravindra Bhat and Justice Hrishikesh Roy said.

Justice Bhat – who wrote a separate concurring judgment – said, “The open category is not a ‘quota’, but rather available to all women and men alike.”

The court said, “Reservations, both vertical and horizontal, are methods of ensuring representation in public services. These are not to be seen as rigid “slots”, where a candidate’s merit, which otherwise entitles her to be shown in the open general category, is foreclosed, as the consequence would be, if the state’s argument is accepted. Doing so, would result in a communal reservation, where each social category is confined within the extent of their reservation, thus negating merit.

“The open category is open to all, and the only condition for a candidate to be shown in it is merit, regardless of whether reservation benefit of either type is available to her or him,” it ruled.

The ruling came on petitions raising the issue of the correct method of filling the quota reserved for women candidates (horizontal reservation) for selection of constables in Uttar Pradesh. The petitioners OBC candidates, largely women, complained that the Uttar Pradesh government failed to correctly apply the rule of reservation in selection of constables, and denied them the benefit of “migration” to the general category vacancies as they had secured the marks needed to qualify for the open category.

Reserved category candidates having secured more marks than the last ranked general category candidate should be given employment under general category, it said.

It said, “Any selection which results in candidates getting selected against open/general category with less merit than the other available candidates will certainly be opposed to principles of equality.”

OBC Female Category candidates having more marks than 274.8928, (secured by the last candidate appointed in General Category-Female) must be offered employment as constables in UP Police, it said.

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