NEW DELHI - Dalit and backward category students competing in the civil services exams on merit should be allowed to avail quota benefits to secure higher services and better cadres, the central government said in the Supreme Court Wednesday, opposing the Madras High Court’s March 2008 ruling, which had held to the contrary.
Appearing for the government before a five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, Solicitor General Gopal Subramanian contended that the high court’s act of scrapping the Civil Services Rule 16(2) governing the service and cadre allocation to successful Dalit and backward category candidates was illegal and unconstitutional.
Subramanian told the court that it was the Rule 16(2), which allowed the Dalit and the backward category candidates, competing the civil services exams on merit, to avail the quota benefits at a later stage during the allocation of cadre and service and secure better service and cadres.
The law officer sought to impress upon the constitution bench that a person having a ladder cannot be prevented from using it to ascend the second floor of a building simply because he was able to climb up to the first floor without using it.
He contended that Rule 16(2) on service and cadre allocation was in strict conformity with Article 335 of the Constitution, which sought to strike a balance between the government’s affirmative actions for the deprived and underprivileged sections of society and the need of merit and efficiency in the administration.
He said that if a Dalit or backward category candidate, qualifying for the civil services on merit, is not given the benefit of reservation in allocation of services and cadre, it would result in an anomaly.
This would lead to the less meritorious ones among the Dalit and the backward category aspirants getting better and higher services compared to those allocated to their meritorious counterparts.
The law officer also contended that Rule 16(2) was also in conformity with Article 46 of the Constitution, which mandated the government to strive to raise the plight of underprivileged and backward sections of society.
While closing his argument, Subramanian made a plea to set aside the high court’s ruling.
The high court had held that if a meritorious Dalit or backward category student, competing the civil service examination on merit, is allowed to avail the quota benefits at the stage of allocation of services and cadre, it would impinge upon the rights of the another set of Dalit and backward category students who were able to clear the examination availing quota benefits.
The high court had pointed out that in that case Dalit and backward category students, competing on the basis of reservation, would be deprived of better cadres and services despite availing the quota benefits from the start.
They would block the seats for backward category students, who have qualified, availing the benefit of the reservation and the relaxed norms of competition.
The government had approached the apex court May 17 last year, challenging the high court ruling. The apex court, in turn, had suspended the ruling two days later and had referred the matter to the constitution bench May 14 this year.