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Akhil Bharatiya Soshit Karamchari Sangh (Railway) Represented Vs. Union Of India And Ors

The reservation of around 65% in favor of Scheduled Class and Scheduled Tribes was not held to be excessive as it was opined that the 50% ceiling on reservations was not a rigid rule.

Case name:Akhil Bharatiya Soshit Karamchari Sangh (Railway) Represented Vs. Union Of India And Ors
Citation:1981 AIR 298
Court:The Supreme Court of India
Bench:JUSTICE Krishna aiyer , JUSTICE  V.R. Pathak, JUSTICE R.S.Reddy, JUSTICE  O. Chinnappa 
Decided on:NOVEMBER 14, 1980
Relevant Act/Sections:Article 14, 16 ,46, 335  of Indian Constitution


  • In this case the initial recruitment and later promotion to classes II, III and IV in railway jobs the Railway Administration provided for reservation of certain percentage of vacancies for candidates belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Despite the special provision the intake of these communities into the Railway Services   continued to be negligible and therefore further concessions and relaxations were offered from time to time to members belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Even so, the vacancies reserved for them remained unfilled.  Various other steps were taken by the Railway Administration to keep open the reserved vacancies including adoption of “carry forward” rule of the unfilled reserved vacancies for at least three years.
  • In the case of selection posts the Railway Board decided that promotions from class IV to class III and from class III to class II were of the nature of direct recruitment and the prescribed      quota  of reservation for scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes should be provided as in direct recruitment. This reservation was confined to ‘selection posts’.  In regard to filling of “general posts” in class III it was stated that they were in the nature of direct recruitment and the reservation for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes as applicable to direct recruitment should be applied.(Annexure F). [paraphrase]
  • In 1969 the Railway Board further revised their policy n regard to the reservation and other concessions to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes candidates in posts filled by promotion (Annexure H). The circular stated that in promotion by selection from class III to class II, if a member of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes was within the zone of eligibility the employee would be given one grading higher than the grading otherwise assignable to him on the basis of his record of service. [paraphrase]
  •   In April, 1970 the percentage of vacancies to be reserved for Schedule Castes and Scheduled Tribes was raised from 121/2%   and 5% to 15% and 71/2% respectively (Annexure I). By the same order the “carry forward” rule was altered from 2 to 3 years.
  •  In 1973  the Railway  Board issue a directive stating that the  quota of  15% and 71/2% for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled  Tribes   may be   provided promotion  to            the categories and posts in classes I, II, III and IV filled on the basis  of  the  seniority-cum-suitability  provided the element of  direct recruitment to  those  grades  does not exceed 50% (Annexure K).
  •  In August, 1974 the Railway Board further directed that if the requisite number of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes candidates were not available for being placed on the panel in spite of the various relaxations the best among them i.e. those who secure highest marks should be earmarked for being  placed on  the panel      to the extent vacancies had been reserved  in their favor. The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes candidates so earmarked might be promoted ad hoc for a period of six months against the vacancies reserved for them. During the period f six months the administration was asked to give them all facilities for improving their knowledge and for coming up to the requisite standard. The procedure was required to be applied in cases of promotion to the posts filled on the basis of seniority-cum-suitability (Annexure N). [paraphrase]
  • These notifications and circulars providing relaxation in selection process and promotion in railway to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes were challenged by the petitioners.


  • Whether Art. 16(1) insists on absolute equality or permits reasonable classification?
  •  Whether SC & STs stand in a different class from the rest of the Indian community?
  •  Whether SC & ST are castes, within the scope of Art. 16(2)? If so, does Art. 16(4) save special provisions in their favor in matters promotion and allied matters?
  •  Whether the directives in question are violative of Article 335?


  • The court observed that the writ petitions as well as the Special Leave Petitions cannot but be dismissed. It was noticed that three provisions of the Constitution relate to reservations for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. They are Art. 46, Art. 16(4) and Art. 335. The three form a single frame of reference. Art. 46, a Directive Principle of State Policy, proclaim the principle that the State shall promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people, and, in particular, of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation. One of the modes in which the economic interests of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes can be promoted is the reservation of appointments or posts in their favor in services under the State where they are not adequately represented. Art. 16(4) declare that when the State intends to make such provision nothing in Art. 16 shall prevent it from doing so. The equality of opportunity guaranteed to all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the State will not restrain the State from making such reservation. [paraphrase]
  •  The court stated that petitioners claim that their Fundamental Right to Equality of Opportunity in the matter of public employment, guaranteed by Art. 16(1) of the Constitution has been flouted by a series of orders and circulars issued by the Railway Board reserving posts at several levels and making various concessions in favor of members of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes. This has been done; it is claimed, at the cost of efficiency, though forbidden by Art. 335 of the Constitution. The plain answer of the respondents is that every one of the orders and circulars has the backing of Art. 16(1), 16(4) and other special provisions of the Constitution and that the alarm of inefficiency is nothing but a bogey.
  • It was observed that Art. 16(1) and Art 16(4). Art. 16(1) guarantees equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the State. To the class of citizens who are economically and socially backward this guarantee will be no more than mere wishful thinking, and mere ‘vanity….wind and confusion”, if it is not translated into reality by necessary state action to protect and nurture such class of citizens so as to enable them to shake off the heart- crushing burden of thousand years’ deprivation from their shoulders and to claim a fair proportion of participation in the Administration. Reservation of posts and all other measures designed to promote the participation of The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes in the Public Services at all levels are in our opinion necessary consequences flowing fro the Fundamental Right guaranteed by Art. 16(1)S This very idea is emphasised further by Art. 16(4). Art. 16(4) is not in the nature of an exception to Art. 16(1). It is a facet of Art. 16(1) which fosters and furthers the idea of equality of opportunity with special reference to an under privileged and deprived class of citizens to when egalite de droit (formal or legal equality) is not egalite de fait (practical or factual equality). [paraphrase]
  • “The rule of equality within Articles 14 and 16(1) will not be violated by a rule which will ensure equality of representation in the services for unrepresented classes after satisfying the basic needs of efficiency of administration. Article 16(2) rules out some basis of classification including race, caste, descent, place of birth etc. Article 16(4) clarifies and explains that classification on the basis of backwardness does not fall within Article 16(2) and is legitimate for the purposes of Article 16(1). If preference shall be given to a particular under-represented community other than a backward class or under-represented State in an All India Service such a rule will contravene Article 16(2). A similar rule giving preference to an under-represented backward community is valid and will not contravene articles 14, 16(1) and 16(2). Article 16(4) removes any doubt in this respect”.
  • The court observed that the constitution permits reasonable classification if it is based upon some substantial differentia and this differentia must have nexus with the object to be achieved and such a classification would not be violative of Article 14 to 16. Therefore if the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes stand on a substantially different footing they may be classified group wise and treated separately. The Constitution suggests that the Scheduled Castes are not merely castes and they may be something less or something more and the caste of a person is determined on the basis of backwardness of the community to which he belongs. The Constitution makes a classification of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in numerous provisions and makes it obligatory for the State to make favorable provisions for them. Equality of status and opportunity must be given to everyone including the socially, economically and educationally backward classes. If these backward classes can maintain minimum necessary requirement of administrative efficiency, then not only representation but also preference may be given to them to enforce equality and to eliminate inequality.
  • Regarding the argument that efficiency would be sacrificed by giving concessions to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes it was observed that minimum standards were provided for every appointment and in case the candidate did not had the requisite standards training was provided to them so that they can acquire the requisite standards. The criterion a lesser marks or extra marks in favor of SC & STs is a mode of boosting the representation of these castes in railway jobs and is a reasonable classification and is not violative of the constitutional provisions.
  • The carry forward rule being raised from 2 years to 3 years cannot be said to be violative of the constitutional provisions as it does not confer monopoly upon SC & ST candidates. It does not deprive the other candidates of opportunity of appointment. Also the circulars provide that in case sufficient numbers of candidates from the SC & ST are not found during these 3 years then applicants from the unreserved communities would be given provisional appointment. Also measures have been taken to ensure that in no year the reservations exceed 50% however in case there is a little excess reservation in a particular year then it would not per se ne violative of the constitutional provisions as mathematical precision cannot be applied while dealing with human affairs but substantial excess will void the selection. If reservation is allowed in selection posts then it would equally be allowed in non selection posts as the role of merit functionally more in the former than in the latter.
  • Therefore, we see that when posts whether at the stage of initial appointment or at the state of promotion are reserved or other preferential treatment is accorded to members of the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and other socially and economically backward classes, it is not a concession or privilege extended to them, it is in recognition of their undoubted Fundamental Right to Equality of Opportunity and in discharge of the Constitutional obligation imposed upon the state to secure to all its citizens ‘Justice, social, economic and political’ and ‘Equality to status and opportunity’, to assure ‘the dignity of the individual’ among all citizens, to ‘promote with special D. care the educational and economic interests of the weaker section of the people’, to ensure their participation on equal basis in the administration of the affairs of the country and generally to foster the ideal of a ‘Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic Republic’. Every lawful method is permissible to secure the due representation of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the public Services. There is no fixed ceiling to reservation or preferential treatment in favour of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes though generally reservation may not be far in excess of fifty percent. There is no rigidity about the fifty percent rule which is only a convenient guideline laid down by Judges. Every case must be decided with reference to the present practical results yielded by the application of the particular rule of preferential treatment and not with reference to hypothetical results which the application of the rule may yield in the future. Judged in the light of this discussion I am unable to find anything illegal or unconstitutional in any one of the impugned orders and circulars.


  • In this case the judgment was given by JUSTICE KRISHNA IYER that every case must be decided with  reference to  the  present  practical  results yielded  by  the  application  of  the  particular  rule  of preferential   treatment   and   not   with   reference   to hypothetical results  which the  application of the rule may yield in  the future.
  •  Judged in the light of this discussion the court is unable to find anything illegal or unconstitutional in any one of the impugned orders and circulars. Each order and circular has  been  individually  discussed  by brother Krishna Iyer  J with whose reasoning and conclusions the court agreed and to which the court wish to add no more.
  • Appeal dismissed.

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