Candidates under ‘Reserved’ category can be appointed under the ‘General/Open’ category based on merit: Supreme Court of India

Women from the reserved category are eligible for selection under the General/Open category in case of vacancies based on merit. The Supreme Court rejected the view adopted by the Allahabad High Court in which candidates belonging to a reserved category are only eligible for selection in another category belonging to the horizontal reservation and cannot be selected under vertical reservation i.e. Open/General category. This view was adopted by J. U Lalit, J. S. Bhat & J. H Roy in the case of Saurav Yadav & Ors. Vs. State of Uttar Pradesh & Ors., [Special Leave Petition (Civil) No. 23223 of 2018].

The case is concerning the selection procedure carried out to fill up vacant seats for the post of Police Constables (U.P. Civil Police/Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC)/Fireman). This Appeal was preferred by two female candidates that participated in the selection procedure and belonged to the reserved category. The two candidates claimed that their request to accommodate their selection in the Open/General category based on the vacant seats in this category was not considered. Hence, they approached the High Court. The Allahabad High Court was of the opinion that, “stage of accommodating candidates for effecting horizontal reservation, the candidates from reserved categories can be adjusted only against their own categories under the concerned vertical reservation and not against the “Open or General Category.”

The Supreme Court accepted the Appeal and analyzed the facts of the case. While discussing the position of horizontal and vertical reservation it observed that there were two different views that were adopted by different High Courts. One set of High Courts comprising of the Rajasthan, Bombay, Gujarat High Court have observed that, “the principle that candidates belonging to any of the vertical reservation categories are entitled to be selected in “Open or General Category” is well settled.” Whereas the High Court of Allahabad and Madhya Pradesh have taken a contrary view to the above stated principle.  

The Supreme Court in this case stated that candidates coming from reserved category that have secured more marks than the last candidate appointed in the General/Open category must be offered employment as a Police Constable. Lastly, relating to the selection based on horizontal and vertical reservation the court stated that, “I would conclude by saying that reservations, both vertical and horizontal, are method of ensuring representation in public services. These are not to be seen as rigid “slots”, where a candidate’s merit, which otherwise entitles her to be shown in the open general category, is foreclosed, as the consequence would be, if the state’s argument is accepted. Doing so, would result in a communal reservation, where each social category is confined within the extent of their reservation, thus negating merit. The open category is open to all, and the only condition for a candidate to be shown in it is merit, regardless of whether reservation benefit of either type is available to her or him.”

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