Jarnail Singh Case: Reservation in Promotion Case

    Posted on 23 June, 2023 by SIDDHARTH SINGH

    Jarnail Singh Case: Reservation in Promotion Case




    “Jarnail Singh Case”

    “Reservation in Promotion Case”

    Jarnail Singh and Ors. vs. Lachhmi Narain Gupta and Others

    Case No. Special Leave Petition (Civil) No. 30621 of 2011

    In the Supreme Court of India: Civil Appellate Jurisdiction

    Appellant:Jarnail Singh and ors     

    Respondent:Lachhmi Narain Gupta and ors

    Date of the Judgment:26th Sept. 2018

    Bench:5 judges  

    Former Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, Justice Kurian Joseph, Justice RF Nariman, Justice SK Kaul, Justice Indu Malhotra.


    Reservation has always been a contentious issue in our country India. After the Poona Pact, DR. B.R. Ambedkar gave up the demand of the Dalit Community for separate electorate colleges. It was agreed that the castes described by the British as ‘Depressed classes’ would be given reservation in employment with joint electorates for a larger number of seats. The said ‘Depressed Classes’ came to be known as ‘Scheduled Castes’ and ‘Scheduled Tribes’.

    A verdict on Jarnail Singh vs Lachhmi Narain Gupta was delivered by the Supreme Court on the 26thof September 2018. This case is famously known as “Reservation in Promotion Case”. A five-judge bench consisting of the then CJI Dipak Misra, Justice Kurian Joseph, Justice RF Nariman, Justice SK Kaul, Justice Indu Malhotra reviewed a previous judgment on reservation for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes about the promotion in Government Jobs and Public Services. This case also looked into the implementation of Creamy layer among the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes while applying reservation in promotions.


    1. Whether the Nagraj Judgement needed reconsideration by a seven-judge bench.
    2. The second issue questioned whether the States had to collect quantifiable data to prove the backwardness and inadequacy of the class while being promoted.
    3. The third issue was whether the creamy layer among the scheduled castes and the scheduled tribes should be barred from obtaining promotions through the reservation.


    The recent judgment held that there is no need to reconsider the Supreme Court's 2006 Nagaraj judgment through a seven-judge Bench. However, it made modifications to the Nagaraj ruling regarding the concept of "further backwardness." In Nagaraj, it was established that if a state decides to provide reservations in promotion, it must gather quantifiable data to prove the existing backwardness of the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes (SC/ST) receiving such reservations.

    The new judgment concluded that the requirement of further backwardness contradicts the nine-judge Bench decision in Indra Sawhney. Justice Nariman stated that Indra Sawhney does not permit the collection of quantifiable data as a prerequisite for granting reservations in promotions.

    While altering the further backwardness criterion, the judgment introduced the application of the creamy layer exclusion principle to SC/STs. Previously, the creamy layer exclusion principle was only applicable to Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in matters of reservation. The Court regarded creamy layer exclusion as a principle of equality. Failing to implement the exclusion of the creamy layer principle would violate the right to equality in two ways: treating equals differently and treating unequals the same. Therefore, the Court concluded that the exclusion of the creamy layer principle is crucial to uphold the right to equality.

    Justice Nariman emphasized that the purpose of reservation is to ensure that backward classes of citizens progress and move forward, hand in hand with other citizens of India, on an equal basis. This objective would not be fulfilled if only the creamy layer within that class secures all the desirable jobs in the public sector and perpetuates their dominance, leaving the rest of the class as backward as before.

    Justice Nariman clarified that the application of the creamy layer principle to SC/STs does not alter the Presidential list under Article 341 and 342 of the Constitution. He stated that the castes and groups mentioned in the Presidential Order remain unchanged, but individuals belonging to the creamy layer within those groups, who have overcome untouchability or backwardness, are excluded from the benefit of reservation in promotion.

    The Court considered the creamy layer exclusion as an inherent principle of equality in shaping reservation policies. Justice Nariman specifically overturned the observation made by former Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan in Ashok Thakur, where he stated that the creamy layer principle is merely a means of identification and not a principle of equality.

    The Bench clarified that the second condition requiring states to provide quantifiable data regarding inadequate representation still stands. The inadequacy of representation should be assessed in relation to a specific cadre and not in proportion to the SC/ST population in the state.


    The Supreme Court's decision in the Jarnail Singh vs Lachhmi Narain Gupta case to include SCs and STs within the creamy layer is symmetrical and acknowledges that those who have already achieved economic stability and social advancement through reservation may no longer require further benefits. The concept of the creamy layer aims to identify those individuals who have progressed economically, socially, and educationally within the backward classes. In India, historically, there has been discrimination against backward classes, including SCs, STs, and untouchables, denying them opportunities in education and employment. Also, reservations alone have not addressed the issue fully, as individuals from reserved categories faced barriers in securing promotions to higher ranks.

    Reservation was implemented to uplift these classes and provide representation. However, the issue of promotion within reserved categories remained unresolved until the Judiciary intervened to include promotions as part of the reservation system, ensuring the protection of the interests of the less privileged. This highlights that violations of equality are more apparent at the entry level rather than during promotions.

    Overall, the decision to incorporate promotions within the reservation framework reflects the ongoing efforts to balance representation and welfare within the reservation system. It acknowledges the need to address the barriers faced by reserved category individuals in advancing their careers, thus striving for a more inclusive and equitable society.

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    Tags: India, VK Singh, Jarnail Singh, Reservation, Promotion




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