In a significant ruling, the Supreme Court on Thursday held that for reservation to apply there must exist more than one post/seat. Applying this rule, a scheduled caste candidate was denied the job of a History Lecturer in a private college in Karnataka, as there exited a single post in the college’s History department.
In his place, the court approved the appointment of one K Govindappa, a general category candidate appointed by the college in July 1994. Earlier, following the Karnataka Government's refusal to confirm his appointment, Govindappa got a favourable order from the Karnataka High Court forcing the State to approach the Apex Court. The State contended that the post of History Lecturer was a reserved post and only a Scheduled Caste candidate could be selected to it.
Taking exception to the State Government's stand, the Bench of Justices Altamas Kabir and Markandey Katju said, “In order to apply the rule of reservation within a cadre, there has to be plurality of posts.” In other words, the court held that for reserving posts, there must exist more than one in the said cadre.
Treating History department as a separate cadre within the cadre of Lecturer post in the college, the Bench said, “In the absence of duality of posts, if the rule of reservation is to be applied, it will offend the constitutional bar against 100 per cent reservation as envisaged in Article 16(1) of the Constitution.”
The court derived strength in its conclusion from a 1998 Constitution bench decision in the case of Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research v Faculty Association where it was laid down that in no case could reservation be made applicable in respect of a single post.
In the present case, the private aided college owned and managed by Vinayaka Rural Education Society contended that being a single post, the same could not be given under reservation, as it would have amounted to 100 per cent reservation. The college applied for approval of the appointment to the State Government, which termed the appointment illegal for being made against a reserved post.
The State argued that out of the total six posts of lecturers, the History lecturer’s post could not be treated as a separate post, but as one belonging to the common pool of lecturers. This argument was turned down by the High Court in its January 27, 2006 order that led the State Government to approach the Apex Court.