Six years ago, the apex court had ruled (in the M Nagaraj case) that the State must first prove the backwardness and inadequacy of representation of SC/STs in government jobs as well as the overall administrative efficiency.
The Supreme Court stressed that only if the data supports the government's claims, a quota can be provided for SC/STs in promotions.
It is this hurdle that the government has sought to remove by introducing the Constitution amendment bill. What is more, the legislation will enable SC/STs to be promoted with retrospective effect.
The bill makes this clear: "It is also necessary to give retrospective effect to the proposed clause (4A) of Article 16 with effect from the date of coming into force of that clause as originally introduced, that is, from the 17th day of June, 1995."
A quota for SC/STs in promotions was created decades ago, but in Nov 1992 the Supreme Court said (in the Indra Sawhney case) that the reservation is unconstitutional. Three years later, a Clause 4A was inserted in Article 16 of the Constitution through the 77th Amendment so that the quota could be continued.
Subsequently the 81st, 82nd and 85th amendments were made. Though the Supreme Court upheld all these amendments in 2006, its emphasis on the aforementioned three compelling reasons meant that the move by both the Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh government to create quota in promotions did not succeed.
Now it is the turn of the Centre. There is no doubt that SC/STs will benefit from the reservation. However, the manner in which some parties have reacted to the bill suggests that its passage in the Winter Session of Parliament is not a foregone conclusion.