New Delhi/Bengaluru:  Thousands of SC/ST Karnataka government employees celebrated and breathed a sigh of relief as the Supreme Court upheld the law granting reservation in promotions to state government employees belonging to SC/ST communities on Friday.

The apex court said that merit must not be viewed from a narrow perspective but should be considered as a large part of bringing about equality for the marginalised sections of society.

The judgement is considered a “catch-up” phrase and had faced a set of challenges against the Karnataka Extension of Consequential Seniority to Government Servants Promoted on the Basis of Reservation (to the Posts in the Civil Services of the State) Act 2018.

In 2002, the law was challenged regarding its validity under the Constitution, when the Karnataka government had executed the law. However, a Constitutional Bench upheld the validity of the proposal in 2006, but also said that the state had to collect data to determine the backwardness of SC/STs.

The Act was further challenged in 2011 and 2017, when the SC annulled the reservations in promotions, leading to around 3,799 SC/ST employees being demoted.

Based on a committee assigned by the Karnataka government under the then chief secretary K Ratna Prabha to study the backwardness and the dearth in representation of SC/ST employees, the Reservation Bill was moved and became an Act last year. In the 2017 judgement of the SC, the Act was challenged saying that it did not address the issues raised in 2017, since known as the BK Pavitra case.

Judges UU Lalit and DY Chandrachud observed that, ”Following the decision in BK Pavitra I, the State government duly carried out the exercise of collating and analysing data on the compelling factors adverted to by the Constitution Bench. The Reservation Act 2018 has cured the deficiency which was noticed by BK Pavitra in the respect of the Reservation Act 2002. The Reservation Act 2018 does not amount to a usurpation of judicial power by the state legislature”.

Chief Minister Kumaraswamy welcomed the act, telling Times of India that, ”I welcome the judgement. The government is committed to protecting the interest of employees within the framework of the Constitution. The judgement reiterates our intention of inclusiveness.”

A government official stated that the demoted SC/ST employees would be brought back to their previous positions and that their pay would also be revised.