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CASE NO. Special leave petition (Civil) no. 30621 of 2011

                                APPELLANT – JARNAIL SINGH AND ORS.


                      DATE OF THE JUDGMENT – SEPTEMBER, 26TH 2018


The Apex Court conveyed its decision on September, 26th 2018 in the matter of Jarnail Singh v. Lachhmi Narain Gupta – which is well known as the ‘Reservation in Promotion Case.’ A five – judge bench which comprised of Former Chief Justice of the Country Dipak Misra, Justice Kurian Joseph, Justice RF Nariman, Justice SK Kaul and the Justice Indu Malhotra evaluated the judgment of a preceding case dealing with the reservation for the Scheduled Castes[1] and the Scheduled Tribes[2] in advancement to Government jobs or public services. This case also looked into the implementation of creamy layer among the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes when applying for the reservation in promotion. This outlook of the case is salient because the ‘creamy layer’ in an economic criterion based on the premise that a person is released from his or her backwardness due to his or her economic progress which leads to social advancements. With this the social and economic caliber of the creamy layer, many people examine it as the Caste[3] bigotry in institutions.

Reservation has every time been a contentious issue in India. Its substructure began after the Poona Pact[4], when Dr. Ambedkar urged for the separate electorates for the Dalit section. Then the said “depressed classes” were designated with the reservation in employment with joint electorates. Reservations in promotions were initiated for the Scheduled caste and the Scheduled tribes to certain conditions until the need was felt to review these conditions. This case spotlights the verdict of the judiciary in this regard.


A conclusion was given in the M. Nagraj and others vs. Union of India[5] and others in the year 2006, which was confronted by numerous states and the Centre. It was the petitioner’s vision that the Nagraj Judgment had made it unfairly difficult to allow reservations in promotions for government job and public services. With this sight, it felt mandatory to examine the conditions accepted in the Nagraj case and refer it to a seven – judge bench. Reservation is seen as a significant theme in India. The Constitution put into effect Article 16 for Equality of opportunity in the case of public employment and this rule initially did not contain anything associated to reservation till the Indira Sawhney case[6] of 1992. Few examination were made in this case beginning with Article 16 (4) which permits to state to make provisions for reservation of any backward class of citizens in appointments or posts but this did not put in to the promotions. This mainly pretentious the Scheduled caste and the Scheduled tribes and in order to carry on the promotions, Clause 4A was inaugurated stating that nothing in the referred article shall avert the State from making any reservation in matters related to the promotion. Through, the 81st Amendment Article 16 (4A) and Article 16 (4B) were added.

The Constitutional validity of these provisions was questioned in the Nagraj case and delivered a verdict stating that if the State wanted to make a provision for reservation in promotions for the Scheduled castes and the Scheduled tribes then it will have to gather ‘quantifiable data’ enough to show the backwardness of the class and inadequacy of representation of that class in public employment. The state also has to see that its reservation provision does not, in any case, breach the ceiling limit of 50 percent or even wipe out the creamy layer. Since the necessity to fetch quantifiable data to show backwardness is in discrepancy to the Indira Sawhney case, it was seen as unconstitutional. Even the implementation of the creamy layer to the Scheduled caste and Scheduled tribes seemed off because it was only confined to the other backward classes. Instituting the idea of the creamy layer to promotions also uplifted questions on equality. Eventually, a petition was filed to review the Nagraj verdict.


Following were the issues upraised in the case:

  • The Nagraj verdict required re- assessment by a seven – judge bench.
  • Another question arises the States had to gather quantifiable data to show the backwardness and insufficiency of the class while being promoted.
  • The third question was regarding the creamy layer among the creamy layer amid Scheduled castes and the Scheduled tribes should be padlocked from acquiring promotions through the reservation.


The court ended that the decision in the Nagraj case does not require to be mentioned to a seven judge bench. Along with this, the provision that the State has to accumulate quantifiable  data  manifesting backwardness of the Scheduled castes and Scheduled tribes is contradictory to the nine judge in Indira Sawhney case making this provision invalid and the discussion on the ‘creamy layer’ has no relevance in the context of Scheduled castes and the Scheduled tribes. Further the Apex Court certified the implementation of creamy layer to promotions of the Scheduled caste and the Scheduled tribes as held in the Nagraj verdict.  It had evolved in thousands of employees being denied their due promotions. The bench viewed the principle of creamy layer as the principle of identification and of the equality.


Our country had a distressing past of caste and class based bigotry. The backward classed, the Scheduled castes, the scheduled tribes and the untouchables all were maltreated and were refused opportunities in every field of whether it was work or education. They needed reservations not as a welfare measure but as a right of representation, a right that had been denied to them for several years. The conditions did not alter by providing them reservation in government jobs and posts as they still face prejudice and could never aim at a high rank irrespective of their merit. A reservation in promotion was a vital stride taken by the Indian Judiciary as not everyone was in favor of this reservation. It is meritorious that our government shields the interests of the less affluent classes that our judiciary is strong enough to take worthy decisions a lot of criticism.



[1] According to the Dictionary meaning, the official name given to the lowest caste, considered ‘untouchable’ in orthodox Hindu scriptures and practice, officially regarded as socially disadvantaged.

[2] In India, an indigenous people officially regarded as socially backward.

[3] A form of social stratification characterized by endogamy, hereditary transmission of a style of life which often includes an occupation, ritual status in a hierarchy and customary social interaction and exclusion based on cultural notions of purity and pollution.

[4] An agreement between Mahatma Gandhi and Babasaheb Ambedkar on behalf of the depressed classes and the upper caste Hindu leaders on the reservation of electoral seats for the depressed classes in the legislature of British India government in 1930.

[5] (2006) 8 SCC 212

[6] Indira Sawhney v. Union of India, 1992 Supp (3) SCC 217

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