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Reserved Category Candidates are Eligible for Vacancies under the General Category, says Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court in an attempt to block diluting of merit under the General Category said that the Reserved Category Candidates are Eligible for Vacancies under the General Category.

In a recent judgment passed by the Supreme Court, the issues that arise due to reservations have been artfully negotiated about. In the case of Saurav Yadav v. State of Uttar Pradesh, the issue that was brought forward in the Supreme Court talked about the complications that arise from trying to specify the relationship between vertical and horizontal reservations.

Accordingly, Article 15(4) and Article 16(4) provide vertical reservations based on bifurcating the population into four groups, namely, Schedule Caste (SC), Schedule Tribe (ST), Other Backward Class Communities (OBC), and General Category. Apart from these reservations, there are certain reservations for women, differently-abled persons, army/military personnel, freedom fighters, etc. These reservations are termed as Horizontal Reservations.

In previously dealt cases, like in Anil Gupta v. State of Uttar Pradesh, the issue arose while trying to specify the relationship between the two categories. The court, however, in the ruling of this case, made it very clear that the horizontal reservation ought to be generally understood in compartmentalized terms, as a nod to recognition of inequalities within each vertical category. Even though the issue was different in this case, it anyhow did highlight absurd interpretive illustrations that are present in our system.

In the Anil Gupta Case, two candidates, one belonging to the OBC-Female and another belonging to the SC-Female participated in the selection process in 2013 for filling up posts of constables in Uttar Pradesh police. Their grievance was that candidates with marks lower than what they secured had been selected in the General Female category disregarding their claim. The state has horizontal reservations for women candidates, and the state had submitted that it would not be possible to carry forward the vacancies under horizontal reservation to the next election, in case the appropriate number of candidates for the horizontal reservation was not available. The Allahabad High Court had accepted this plea.

The cut-off marks for eligible females (general category) were 274.8928. While all-male candidates belonging to OBC, SC, ST category securing more than the cut-off marks 313.616 for the male candidates in the general/open/unreserved category were selected, the same standard was not applied to the OBC or SC or ST women category candidates, although they had obtained more than the cut-off marks for the female candidates in the general or open or unreserved category.

The bench rejected the views of Allahabad and Madhya Pradesh High Courts and described the view adopted by the High Courts of Rajasthan, Bombay, Uttarakhand, and Gujarat as correct and rational.

A Three-Judge Bench was formulated for the hearing, in the Supreme Court.

Underlying the reasoning, that the critics of reservation are likely to endorse the view that the open category, which is free of reservation of any kind, must be available only to candidates who are not the beneficiaries of any reservations, so that merit is accommodated to the extent possible, the assumption made is that reservations and merit and incompatible in principle.

In the present case, the Supreme Court explained how erroneous the assumption (stated above) was in a nuanced way. While the Apex Court reiterated its steps into its past judgements, it analyzed the ones that the High Courts had given in the cases, where they held that candidates belonging to reserved category can be considered to fill horizontal reservations under the open category on their own merit, as opposed to what Supreme Court has held in its past judgements, related to the issue, so far.

In the Saurav Yadav case, the defenders of radical inclusion think that by merely displacing the merit with inclusion, social justice can be achieved. But what people do not realize is that it includes the consequences of leaving intact the idea that those included come through by casting aside merit.

The court, as explained, is trying to argue that for its purposes, the opposition differences between the merit and the reservation needs to be deconstructed, not because there is nothing as merit or because the entire concept of reservations does not belong here. The court is trying to say that,

“Members of the reserved category must be fully considered as falling under the rubric of being potentially meritorious.”


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