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T. Devadasan v Union of India (1964) SC 179: a Case Analysis

Facts
In Devadasan v. Union of India[1], also known as ‘carry forward rule case’, the scope of Article 16(4) was contemplated. In this case the government's "enforcement guidelines" for the appointment of retrograde class persons to public services was included. The overall language concerning the quantum in Balaji took on a whole new facet in this case.

In this case the petitioner, a Central Secretariat assistant level IV was competent for the next Unit Officer grade. The U.P.S.C. in 1961, organized a competitive examination which was held for the position of Assistant Superintendent to fill 45 vacancies of which 29 vacancies were reserved for SCs and STs and the subsequent vacancies remained open. The petitioner challenged the government to have a reasonable chance of being selected for the post if it restricted the normal quota of 17% for Scheduled Castes and Tribes, because then more vacant jobs could have been made. Furthermore, in 1952 the government had introduced the "carry forward law".

Issues
The issues were that whether the carry forward rule was challenged so far as the privileges granted by Article 16 clause (1) ought to be nullified or lost and whether or not the aft class was properly portrayed was left to the state's subjective satisfaction.

Rule
The rule discussed in this case was The Carry Forward Rule which states that in addition to the existing reserves, unfilled vacancies for reserved category candidates are to be extended to the next year, thereby increasing the quantum or reserves in the next year by the amount that is actually unfulfilled (with a limit of two years, in this case). It ended in 64.4 percent of vacancies that were to be filled with Scheduled Castes and Tribes in the recruitment yearly issue i.e. in the third year.

The Court held that, following Balaji, the reserve vacancies in any one year had raised to more than 50% because they were not constitutional because of the carry-forward clause. While Balaji agreed on the number of reservations in educational institutions, it made certain observations concerning the need for valid and permissible limits of reservation equating both Articles 15(4) and 16(4). However, the obiter was followed by a majority in Devadasan that made arbitrary and unfair the modified transit law. Concerning the Balaji dictate of a quantum rule less than 50% and the belief that Article 15(4) and Article 16(4) were exceptions to key clauses, the Court overshadowed the carry forward rule as amended in 1955 by a majority of four to one in all.

Although the Court found that to have been the case, it also noted that as Article 16(4) applied to "appointments," the entire scope of work opportunities covered by Articles 16(1) and (2) did not cover. The Court found, in particular, that "no exception can be made for marginalized groups in matters relating to salaries, promotions, compensation, pension, and age of superannuation. Although the Court found that to have been the case, it also noted that, as Article 16(4) applied to "appointments," the entire scope of work opportunities covered by Articles 16(1) and (2) did not cover. The Court found, in particular, that "no exception can be made for marginalized groups in matters relating to salaries, promotions, compensation, pension, and age of superannuation.

The Court stated that the reservations cannot be used to destroy or annul the idea of equal opportunities and that in some instances clause (4) can have overriding effects on clauses (1) and (2) of Article 16 only to make a reasonable amount of reservations for appointments and posts. The Court stressed that the quota for disadvantaged communities should not be disproportionate to carry out the guarantee, every year of recruitment should be taken into account for itself, to establish a monopoly or unduly disrupt the legitimate demands of other communities.

The Court suggested the formula for striking balance: If the reservation is so unreasonable, it effectively excludes members of other groups a fair job opportunity, the situation could very well be different. A more advanced class member may argue that equality has been denied by the State. Thus it was held that it is a guarantee to each individual citizen and that each person, who seeks employment or appointment to the office of the State is entitled to be allowed to pursue those employments or appointments whenever they are intended to be filled.
The 50 percent rule only applies to proper reservations, i.e., backward classes reservations made under Article 16(4). This rule applies. The law cannot, however, be applied to exemptions, concessions, or reliefs given to retroactive classes in compliance with Article 16(4).

Analysis
The critical issue is how much merits and efficiencies should be overridden in the affirmative action programs, which are based on utterly meaningless criteria like caste and ethnicity. Inequality is caused when the equals are treated unfairly and when the unequal’s are treated equally. The selection of the right distribution basis for choice is not problematic. Individual needs, rank, merit, and right have been proposed as suitable foundations for the allocation of benefits, under appropriate conditions. We cannot include in defining a "section of society" sections of the population identified solely by their characteristics since some segments of the population would be excluded. Everybody might agree that merit is an acceptable criterion for obtaining medical university admissions – if seats are restricted.

The rejection of future candidates for reasons other than merit is now the primary denial of equal opportunities. The intent of continuing to do so is to ensure that a certain number of people belonging to a specific group are present at a given time. The selection process and its classifications are designed to achieve the end goal of adequate representation of the party. As such, thus, it was both unforeseen and ideologically appropriate in Devadasan.

Justice Subba Rao took a more logical and distinguished approach as the whole definition of equality was a revolutionary challenge to the issue of the reservations in the sphere of government work in his dissenting opinion. According to him, in matters relating to work or appointment to an office in the State, that all citizens will have equal opportunity. The phrase "Nothing in this Article" is a legislative instrument that most clearly expresses its purpose that the power bestowed on it is not limited to the terms of the laws but that is beyond them. It did not really create an exception, but it retained a power unaffected by the other provisions of the article. The rule of law is structurally crafted to disadvantage groups and endure systemic discrimination so as individuals are part of those groups. Corrective interventions aimed at communities are therefore no exception to the general concept of equality, but help to achieve the underlying purposes of equality.

In the term "any provision," he also analyzed the meaning and contents of the word "any," and held that it was extensively used and left indiscretion the essence of the provision that the State was to make. The provision obviously caused significant problems for people who requested for the second or third selection, unlike in the case of an earlier selection or selection, though non-SCs and non-STs were taken as the same and since an unreasonably disproportionate proportion of the system strength is developed with these castes and tribes, it cannot be argued that the law is not a reservation but the extinction of a fundamental right. So he observed that rejecting the contention that the carry forward rule would amount to the annihilation of fundamental rights.

So, 16(4) move to an "emphatic" restoration from an exception to rule 16(1) and (2). Logically, therefore, it is no longer 16(4) that is legitimizing statutory discrimination, but 16(1). And that is, it requires a promise of affirmative action in the principle of fair rights agreed to in the Constitution. Only other constraint was noticed in the terms 'for appointments or posts vacancies,' i.e. whether the provision had been made for appointing or reserving positions for the backward citizenship classes.

Article 16, Clause (4) only constitutes an exception to the remainder of that Article, it is an aspect of equal opportunity enshrined in clause (1) of the Article and an important method of its execution and realization. Clause (4) does not seek approval but instead offers them substantive aid and value from everything in Article 16 of clauses (1) and (2). It has the same purpose as the (1) and (2) clauses for ensuring equal opportunities. Therefore, clearly, clauses 1 and 2 or any of the other characteristics in the article are just fundamental rights.

Conclusion
The following conclusion was reached: It was important to remember that equal opportunities guaranteed in clause (1) shall apply to every individual citizen of the country whereas in clause (4) special arrangements for socially disadvantaged classes are made. Both must be mutually compatible. This should not be allowed either for the other to overshadow. Therefore it was considered that, as the unit and not as the whole force of the framework, service or unit should be taken as the purpose of applying the rule of 50 percent per year, maybe.
Under the spirit of Article 16, the carry-forward system was fully consistent with (4) and if it was not followed the forward rule, backwardness would be committed and would eventually lead to a closed space.

So, if any reservations go beyond 50% then it would be invalid, or the carry-forward rule would become invalid. Since Article 16(4) forms part of the constitution, an unreasonable reservation could not be allowed to the State to undermine the laws set out in Article 16(1) of the Constitution. Regarding what a reasonable restriction would be within its acceptable limits, it must rely on the facts and conditions in each case, and no the stringent and fast rule could be defined and that matter could not be constrained to a math equation to be adhered to in any case.

End-Notes:
  1. (1964) SC 179.

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