No reservation for SC/ST categories in case of officers’ promotions in public sector banks

Supreme Court: Reviewing its judgment dated 9-1-2015, the Division Bench of Chelameswar and Dr. A.K. Sikri, JJ has held that there is no provision for reservation in public sector banks for  SC/ST categories in promotion of  officers  from one grade/scale to the next, when such promotions are to be made on selection basis i.e. on merits.

The Court however, observed that it is open to the State and the banks to consider whether it is feasible to provide such reservation in the officers’ category and if so up to what level.

 The Court had to decide upon the validity of the Madras High Court’s judgment in the batch of appeals, which had decided that in the matter of promotions in the officer grades, a reservation in favour of SC/ST officers was provided for in the Office Memorandum dated August 13, 1997. The Banks contended that there was no rule of reservation for promotion in Class A (Class I) to the post/scales having a basic salary of more than Rs 5700 per month and the OM at best only provided a concession. The Supreme Court had upheld the Banks’ contention observing that  there was no reservation in respect of promotion by selection within only those Group A  posts carrying ultimate salary of  Rs 5700. However, based on other memoranda, it observed  that reservation existed only in respect of those posts carrying basic pay of up to Rs 5700 per month and with the implementation of the Fifth Pay Commission  Report, It would follow that such reservation was applicable to the post carrying pay scale of Rs 18,300. On that basis, it was held that since pay scale of the posts up to Scale VI was Rs 18,300 reservation is to be provided.  This aspect of the judgment was under review.

The Attorney General Mr Mukul Rohatgi submitted that a fundamental error, apparent on the face of the record had crept in para 34 of the judgment wherein the Court had observed that “reservation is provided in promotion by selection qua those posts which carry an ultimate salary of less than Rs 5700 (pre-revised)” while observing in the earlier portion of the same paragraph that “there is no reservation in promotion by selection in Group A posts which carry an ultimate salary of Rs 5700 per month. In such cases it is only the concession that applies”. In spite of deciding the main issue against the respondents, because of the aforesaid error in the judgment, the said benefit was still bestowed by giving reservations to officers belonging to SC/ST category from Scale I to Scale VI. The Court agreed that it was in conflict not only with the earlier portion of para 34 but the  entire conclusion discussed in the judgment. It is clearly an error on the face of record as no such consequence follows. Consequently, the Court allowed the review petitions  by deleting paras 33 to 36 of the judgment, the directions contained therein as well as the directions contained in para 37 . It was to be replaced with

“33. Result of the aforesaid discussion would be to allow these appeals and set aside the judgment of the High Court. While doing so, we reiterate that it is for the State to take stock of the ground realities and take a decision as to whether it is necessary to make a provision for reservation in promotions from Scale I to Scale II and upward, and if so, up to which post. The contempt petition also stands disposed of.”

Guided by the principle of ex debito justitae as discussed in A.R. Antulay v. R.S. Nayak,(1988) 2 SCC 602 and S.Nagaraj v. State of Karnataka, 1993 Supp (4) SCC 595, the Court observed “when an error is pointed out and the Court also finds that there is an error apparent on the face of the record, it would not shy away from correcting that error”. [Chairman  & Managing Director, Central  Bank of India v. Central  Bank of  India SC/ST Employees Welfare Association2016 SCC OnLine SC 19 , decided on  8-1-2016]

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