The Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, which continues its sitting with newly appointed Judge RF Nariman has delivered its first Judgment, quashing the O.M. No. 36012/23/96-Estt.(Res) dated 22.7.1997 and consequential Notification dated 30.11.1998 issued by the Central Government omitting the provisions of regulation 7(3) of the Central Secretariat Service Section Officers' Grade/Stenographers' Grade 'B' (Limited Departmental Competitive Examination) Regulations, 1964. Regulation 7(3) provides for relaxed qualifying standard in favour of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes candidates to make up the deficiency in the reserved quota.
The Central Government had issued the impugned Notification in compliance with the Supreme Court's judgment in the case of S. Vinod Kumar vs. Union of India (JT 1996(8) SC 643). According to the Court, though Article 16(4A) had been brought into Constitution by the Constitution (Seventy-seventh Amendment) Act, 1995 with effect from 17.6.1995, S. Vinod Kumar did not take into consideration this constitutional provision. The Constitution Bench (CB) has declared S. Vinod Kumar is a per incuriam Judgment, which is no longer a good law.
In S. Vinod Kumar v. Union of India the Court had held that relaxation of qualifying marks and standards of evaluation in matters of reservation in promotion was not permissible under Article 16(4) in view of Article 335 of the Constitution. This was also the view in Indra Sawhney. The Constitutional validity of Article 16(4A) had come up for consideration before the Constitution Bench much earlier in the case of M. Nagaraj ((2006)8 SCC 212 )
By the Constitution (Eighty-second Amendment) Act, 2000 a proviso was inserted at the end of Article 335 of the Constitution which reads as under
: “Provided that nothing in this article shall prevent in making of any provision in favour of the members of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes for relaxation in qualifying marks in any examination or lowering the standards of evaluation, for reservation in matters of promotion to any class or classes of services or posts in connection with the affairs of the Union or of a State.”
This proviso was added following the benefit of reservation in promotion conferred upon SCs and STs alone. This proviso was inserted keeping in mind the judgment in Vinod Kumar which took the view that relaxation in matters of reservation in promotion was not permissible under Article 16(4) in view of the command contained in Article 335. The Court, subject to certain conditions, as early as in 2006 had upheld the constitutional validity of the Constitution(Seventy-Seventh (Amendment) Act;1995: the Constitution (Eighty-first Amendment) Act, 2000; the Constitution (Eighty-second Amendment) Act,2000 and the Constitution (Eighty-fifth Amendment) Act, 2001 in Nagraj Case.