HM Journal

“Reservation benefit can’t be availed by a person simultaneously in two successor states”: SC

Court– Supreme Court of India

Judgment Name – Pankaj Kumar v State of Jharkhand & Ors

Judgment date – 19 Aug 2021

Judges– J. Ajay Rastogi, J. U.U. Lalit

Introduction

A division bench comprising Justices UU Lalit and Ajay Rastogi held that a person can claim reservation benefits in any of the successor states, but not both while setting aside a judgment of the Jharkhand High Court in the case of Pankaj Kumar v State of Jharkhand & Ors.

The state of Bihar was bifurcated into two States i.e., State of Bihar and State of Jharkhand through the Bihar Reorganization Act 2000. Articles 341 and 342 of the Indian Constitution deal with inclusion and specifications of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes. The reserve advantages would be within the geographical borders of a state or UT for the purposes of Articles 341 and 342 of the Constitution.

Brief facts of the Case – The appellant was born in Hazaribagh in 1974 where his father, originally from Patna district in Bihar, resided. After the Bihar Reorganization Act, 2000 came into force, Hazaribagh district became part of the successor state of Jharkhand. He was brought up and was engaged in a government job as an Assistant Teacher in the State of Jharkhand which he got against the post reserved for scheduled castes. He had then appeared for the Combined Civil Services Examination for which he was selected in the final interview and his name appeared in the list at serial number 5 against 17 vacancies for the SCs. His appointment letter was withheld. He finally filed the writ petition under Article 226 of the Constitution in the High Court. While a single court of the High Court granted his request for employment in the SC quota in Jharkhand, the same was dismissed by a division bench upon the state’s appeal.

Contentions of the Appellant– His contention was that he was born, raised, and received his education in the region that is now part of the state of Jharkhand. He is a member of the Scheduled Caste group, and the relevant government in the state of Jharkhand had granted him a certificate. Therefore, he must get his appointment against the reservations for SCs.

Contentions of the Defendant – The state of Jharkhand in the affidavit to the High Court submitted that appellant’s appointment order was stayed on the grounds that he is a permanent resident of District Patna in Bihar and so should be considered as a migrant to Jharkhand. 

Principle Issue– The issue before the court was whether a person who has been a resident of the State of Bihar and where the Constitution (Scheduled Castes)/(Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950 identifying castes/tribes is issued, extending the benefit to members of SC/ST throughout the state of Bihar, which was later bifurcated into two successor States i.e., Bihar and Jharkhand protected under the provisions of the 2000 Act could still be deemed a migrant to the successor state of Jharkhand, depriving them of the advantages that the incumbent or their lineal descendants have enjoyed in the integrated state of Bihar since the Presidential Order of 1950?

Scope of Art 341(1) and 342(1)– The bench noted that the purpose of Articles 341(1) and 342(1) of the Constitution is to offer greater protection to members of the SC/ST community in light of their social and economic disadvantage. The court relied on the case of Marri Chandra Shekhar Rao v Dean, Seth G.S. Medical College and Others [1990(3) SCC 130] where the court had interpreted whether a person belonging to the Scheduled Castes in one State would be eligible to the advantages or concessions granted to Scheduled Castes in another State in terms of education or employment. In a plethora of cases including the case of Bir Singh v Delhi Jal Board and Ors [2018(10) SCC 312], it was held that the a person who is recognised as a Scheduled Caste in State “A” cannot claim the same status in another State just because he is notified as such in State “A.”

Reading S.73 and 74 of the Act 2000 together: The court read the section 73 along with section 74 of the Act 2000 and observed that Employees who were appointed immediately before the appointed date and who were holding or discharging duties of any post or office in connection with the affairs of the existing State of Bihar in any area now falling within the successor State of Jharkhand shall continue to hold the same post or office in the successor State if the option to remain in the State of Bihar has been exercised.

The court noted that it will be highly unfair and detrimental to their interests if the benefits of reservation, as well as the privileges and benefits that flow from them, are not protected in the State of Jharkhand after the appellant is absorbed by virtue of Section 73 of the Act 2000, which clearly states that not only the existing service conditions, but also the benefit of reservation and privileges that he was enjoying before the state bifurcation, will be protected.

Judgment- The court ordered the appointment of the appellant in pursuant to the selection and set aside the judgment by the High Court division bench, holding it unconstitutional.

Author’s Opinion – The court ruled in the instant case that persons may claim the benefit of reservation in either the successor state of Bihar or the successor state of Jharkhand, but they may not claim the privileges and benefits of reservation in both states at the same time; if this is allowed, it will be in violation of Articles 341(1) and 342(1) of the Constitution. It was also held that Members of the reserved category who are residents of the successor state of Bihar and engage in open selection in the state of Jharkhand will be considered as migrants and will be allowed to participate in the general category without claiming the advantage of reservation, and vice versa. With this, for all practical purposes, including participation in open competitions seeking public employment, the appellant would be eligible to claim the benefit of reservation, including the rights and benefits available to members of the Scheduled Caste group in the state of Jharkhand.

Written by Anamika Singh, NUSRL Ranchi.

References:

  1. [Pankaj Kumar v. State of Jharkhand, CIVIL APPEAL NO(S). 4864 OF 2021, decided on 19.08.2021]
  2. INDIA CONST. art. 341, cl. 1.
  3. INDIA CONST. art 342, cl. 1.
  4. Bihar Reorganization Act, 2000

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