The relief appears to be of a short duration as it is far from clear what the law is in this regard.

The Supreme Court may have given a small boost to the Central government on Tuesday when it allowed it to give reservations in promotions for Scheduled Castes and Tribes “in accordance with the law”. The government had approached it to challenge a Delhi high court ruling on quotas in promotions. The Supreme Court order – which has temporary relief written all over it – may help the government argue that it is not against dalits, adivasis or tribal people, a reputation that has been gained of late due to rising crimes against these categories.

The relief appears to be of a short duration as it is far from clear what the law is in this regard. While quotas in government jobs have been permitted since 1955, in the 1990s and later a series of judgments at the level of the Supreme Court as well as some high courts – prominent among which are the Indira Sawhney case and the Nagraj case – had made for much confusion. This, according to the Centre’s submission, had put an end to reservations in promotions.

To meet a legal requirement, the UPA government had posited that all SC and ST candidates may be deemed to be of backward classes and were under-represented. But a law to this effect needs to be passed. A legal challenge can be anticipated before a Constitution Bench. There are likely to be conceptual issues too. Are promotion quotas only in the government sector or also in the private sector, and are these to be at all levels of the hierarchy?

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