The SC today permitted the Center to continue with reservation for SC/ST employees in promotions for now, and agreed to hear a petition against quashing of the practice.
Though it asked the government to proceed "as per law," it refused to specify which one.
Various HCs have stayed reservation-based promotions in the past. Resultantly, promotions had nearly come to a standstill, the Center argued.
In the 2006 M Nagaraj case, the SC ruled the 'creamy layer' concept cannot be applied in promotions in government jobs.
Other necessary factors, including backwardness and inadequacy of representation, were also missing, and providing reservation without these violated equality of opportunity in Article 16.
This virtually halted reservation in promotions, but after several states approached it, the SC agreed to reconsider the decision.
The Modi government has supported three key caste issues- SC/ST reservation in promotions in government jobs, in universities, and a law against caste-based atrocities.
However, the judiciary has passed orders against demands of Dalits. They alleged the SC order on the Prevention of Atrocities Act "diluted" its provisions.
Court orders had also led to the UGC changing rules on reserved seats for university teachers.
Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, president of the Lok Janshakti Party and the key speaker of the government on caste issues, has asserted they will challenge judiciary orders against these castes' interests in the SC, and expressed hope the apex court will rule in their favor.
But if it doesn't, the government won't hesitate to take the ordinance route, he said.
The SC has now ruled the Center can continue with promotions "in accordance with laws" till its Constitution Bench decides on the issue. "We can say that you can go ahead with promotion as per law and we won't mention what is (the) law," it said.
Love India news?
Subscribe to stay updated.