The right to equality is one of the essential liberties granted to all Indian citizens by the Indian Constitution. Article 16 addresses the equality of opportunity in fields of public employment. There is no universal consensus on the precise meaning of the word “equal opportunity,” which has several different definitions. The Indian Constitution offers a broad interpretation of this clause.
Part III of the Indian Constitution outlines a number of essential rights, and article 16 of that section guarantees equality of opportunity in areas pertaining to public employment. All country residents have access to Article 16.
The following topics are covered by Article 16:-
- All citizens shall have an equal opportunity to apply for jobs or be appointed to positions within the state.
- In regards to positions or employment with the state, there will be no discrimination on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex, origin, place of birth, residency, or any combination of these.
- Prior to such employment or appointment, the Parliament may pass rules governing certain classifications of employment or office appointments.
- Any backward class may be given preference for an appointment or position by the state.
- The state may also implement a reserve for SC and STs in terms of promotion and subsequent seniority.
- For the purpose of calculating the maximum 50% reserve on the total number of vacancies, the state may create various classes of vacancies from the unfilled vacancies of the year.
ARTICLE 16 : SCOPE
Public employment, as defined by Article 16 as employment or appointment to any post under the Central or State Government or one that is subordinate to them, is covered. Now, all items pertaining to employment, both before to and after employment, which are ancillary to the employment and constitute portions of the terms and conditions of such employment, must be included in matters relating to employment and appointment.
The definition of “equal employment opportunity” has expanded. Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) refers to a variety of:
- Access to jobs
- Conditions of employment
- Relationships in the workplace
- The evaluation of performance and
- The opportunity for training and career development
Any appointment to a public post must follow the established procedure and be totally open, transparent, and equitable. According to Article 14, the appointment shall be done fairly, without using any arbitrary decision-making.
The High Court is a constitutional and independent power subordinate to none, hence none can undermine the constitutional authority of the High Court, the Supreme Court ruled in the case of Renu and Others v. District and Sessions Judge, Tis Hazari and Others. If the regulations do not adhere to the principles of our Constitution, they may be changed, and no appointments should be made that do so. Before making any hiring decisions, it is essential that all applicable rules are strictly followed, and the employer is required to follow the requirements of Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution.
The Food Corporation of India v. Bhanu Lodh case made note of the fact that discrimination may only happen between those who are treated similarly, if not equally. Since a Joint Manager was chosen, the Deputy Manager cannot claim that he was a victim of discrimination. Nothing about the two posts is similar. It is perfectly legitimate for an employer to fill positions in one category while choosing not to do so in the other for a variety of business-related reasons. There is no justification for or evidence in favour of discrimination.
No discrimination on the basis of caste, creed, sex, origin, place of birth, or any other factor is permitted, as stated in article 16(2), but a fair classification is always allowed to accomplish the concept of equality in its truest sense. For example, a group of people may be distinguished from others based on their level of knowledge, in order to advance a developing society, etc. The phrase “not appropriately represented in the services under the State” is used in Articles 16(4) and (4A), and it signifies that the state may take measures to ensure social fairness and the betterment of such individuals by classifying them differently from others. Reservations may be made by the relevant authorities, according to the clause.
The issue of promotion classification on the basis of educational qualifications so as to deny eligibility for promotion to a higher post to an employee possessing less qualification or require longer experience for those possessing less qualification has been upheld as valid by the Supreme Court in the case of Accountants Association, Jaipur v. Rajasthan State Electricity Board.
DIFFERENT PAY SCALES
Pay disparities alone do not constitute discrimination. The authority has the authority to establish various pay packages for the employees based on justifications.
Three judges ruled in the case of Government of West Bengal v. Tarun K. Roy that parity in salary cannot be demanded where the educational background is different after taking note of numerous prior judgements.
The Supreme Court also stated in a case that it is well established that the executive branch, not the judiciary, is primarily responsible for formulating pay scales and equating posts. As a result, courts typically avoid taking on the responsibility of job evaluation, which is typically carried out by expert organisations like pay commissions, etc.
In order to ensure that each group in society is equally represented in those posts, Article 16(4-A) gives the state the power to control promotions and seniority in public offices. The ability to restrict access to certain groups of people extends beyond hiring and appointment in public posts.
In Union of India and others v. Hemraj Singh Chauhan and others, it was noted that the guarantee of a fair consideration in matters of promotion under Article 16 of the Constitution virtually flows from the guarantee of equality under Article 14 of the Constitution. Eligible employees’ right to be considered for promotion is practically a part of their fundamental right guaranteed under Article 16 of the Constitution.
The Court decided that even the seniority the candidates from Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes had gained via the promotion of general class candidates could not be damaged by the future promotion of general class candidates. Union of India v. S. Vinodkumar. It was not acceptable to relax the evaluation criteria or qualifying marks in instances involving reservations for promotions.
The Poona Pact of 1924 is responsible for the creation of the reservation. The reservation under Article 16 was examined in the 1947 Interim Report on Fundamental Rights with the following key objectives:
- formal equality i.e. to put SC, ST, OBCs on the same footing with the majority.
- provision for the entry of certain communities which have so far been outside the administration
- reservation, cannot be of such an extent that it would override formal equal treatment.
The Supreme Court ruled that the reservations were constitutionally valid in Indra Sawney v. Union of India as long as they did not encompass what it referred to as the “creamy layer” of socially evolved people. Reservations could only be made for first appointments; they did not apply to promotions, and the total amount of reservations could not be more than 50%.
In the case of State of Kerala v. N.M. Thomas, the court overturned the ruling in the Balaji case by ruling that Article 16(4) is a distinct section rather than an exemption to Article 16(1). The finding that Article 16(1) is a component of the equality theory embodied in Article 14 and permits fair classification in the same way that Article 14 does was approved.
The class of people described in Article 16(4) as being backward has a larger scope. Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and all other classes of citizens who are disadvantaged—both socially and educationally—are included. Some classes might not be eligible for reservations under article 15(4) but might be under article 16.
The article also outlines the carry-forward provision under Article 16’s paragraph (4-B). The rule stated that any quota of reserved positions that remained unfilled at the end of one year would be carried over to the following.
The Supreme Court had reviewed the application of Article 16(4) in Devadason v. Union of India, notably in light of the “carry-forward rule.” The ruling was invalidated by the court because it was unconstitutional. The “carry forward rule” was thereafter reinstated by the Court in the case of A.B.S.K. Sangh (Rly) v. Union of India. The Court approved the reservation over 50% because it did not deem the 64.4 percent reservation to be unreasonable.
The Mandal Commission judgement maintained the Devadason ruling that the “carry-forward rule” was legal as long as reservations did not go beyond the 50 percent cap.
The Constitution (Eighty-first Amendment) Act of 2000 introduced Article 16(4-B), which expressly permits the carry forward rule above the fifty percent maximum.
Reservations are intended to offer individuals who have been left out owing to social, economic, or educational disadvantage a stake in the government. As Nehru once stated, “we cannot have equality because in seeking it, we run afoul of some egalitarian principles.” The assertion supports the idea of reservations for underprivileged groups.
The phrase “equality of opportunity” enjoys strong support from people in modern societies. When examined closely, equality of opportunity breaks down into multiple separate principles, some of which are antagonistic competitors. Which of these principles, if any, are morally acceptable and which should be imposed by coercion are debatable. A community free from prejudice based on presumptive traits like colour, ethnicity, religion, sex, or sexual orientation is commonly regarded as desirable in and of itself. Many people find the ideal to be more powerful than any justification that may be put out to support it.
Article-16, Constitution of India (1950)
Indian Constitutional Law, M.P. Jain
Constitutional Law Of India, Dr. J.N. Pandey
Introduction to the Constitution Of India, Durga Das Basu
Constitution Of India, V.N. Shukla
Renu and Others v District and Sessions Judge, Tis Hazari and Another CIVIL APPEAL NO. 979 OF 2014
Food Corporation of India v. Bhanu LodhA.I.R, 2005 S.C. 2775 at p. 2782
Government of West Bengal v. Tarun K Roy (2004) 1 S.C.C 347
Union of India and others v. Hemraj Singh Chauhan and others A.I.R 2010 S.C 1682
S. Vinodkumar vs. Union of India1996 6 SCC 580
Indra Sawney v. Union of India A.I.R 1993 S.C 477 at p.537
State of Kerala v. N.M. Thomas AIR 1976 SC 490.
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