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Caste based promotions struck down by Bombay High Court

In a major setback to the Maharashtra government, the Bombay High Court on Friday struck down its May 2004 resolution that facilitated caste-based promotions in state employment. The HC has held promotions of employees from the De-Notified tribes, the Nomadic Tribes and the Special Backward Classes as ‘illegal’ and has granted 12 weeks’ time to the government to make a fresh list of promoted officials since 2004. The HC however, not interfered in the promotions of the Scheduled Castes (SC) and the Schedul-ed Tribes (ST). A Division Bench of Justice Anoop Mohta and Justice Amjad Sayed was hearing petitions challenging the caste-based promotions.

The petitioners had challenged the Government Resolution (GR) that made provisions for reservation of 33 per cent seats in matters of promotions in favour of employees of the SC, ST, De-Notified Tribes (A), Nomadic Tribes (B), Nomadic Tribes (C), Nomadic Tribes (D) and Special Backward Classes.

Initially, there was a difference of opinion between Justice Mohta and Justice Sayed as the latter partly disagreed to the view held by former, who was in favour of the caste-based promotions. Subsequently, the issue was referred to a single-judge bench of Justice Mahesh Sonak for his opinion and accordingly, in a detailed judgement, he has agreed with the view of Justice Sayed to strike down the GR.

According to the now majority view (of Justice Sayed and Justice Sonak), the government was not empowered to issue such a GR, without undertaking the exercise of collection of quantifiable data and forming its opinion that, SC/STs have not been adequately represented in the services under the State.

The judges have now directed the government to prepare a fresh list for promotion of employees since 2004 this means that the promotions made since then (2004) is at stake.

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