No benefits in multiple slots for SC/STs

Mumbai: By coming down sharply on those claiming benefits under more than one reserved category, the Bombay High Court on Thursday has put to rest the contentions of all the naysayers of reservation.

A full bench of the HC has held that a person applying for government jobs, cannot insist on getting benefits under two reserved categories. A three-judge bench, headed by Justice Abhay Oka, has delivered this significant judgment, restraining people from claiming benefits like age relaxation under more than one category. This means that if a person belonging to a reserved category like Scheduled Castes (ST), Scheduled Tribes (ST) or Other Backward Castes (OBC) is also handicapped or an ex-serviceman, while applying for a government job, he/she cannot seek relaxations under both the categories. Such a candidate can only apply for the job under either of the two categories.

“If any special provision, like age relaxation, has already been made in favour of SC/ST and OBC under one category, then, it is not ordinarily open to members belonging to the said categories to insist upon benefits of further classification or further special treatment,” the bench said.

“Therefore, if an applicant avails benefits of age relaxation on the basis that s/he belongs to SC/ST or OBC category, then such an applicant cannot insist upon additional benefits of age relaxation on the grounds that they belong to some category like, say, physically challenged, ex-serviceman, ward of freedom fighter, project-affected person etc,” the bench ruled. The bench also comprising of Justices Mahesh Sonak and Shalini Phansalkar-Joshi, was seized with a reference owing to contrary views of two separate benches of the HC, on this aspect of reservations.

According to the reference, the full bench was asked to decide if age relaxation, as provided to reserved categories, could be granted to a job applicant under two separate heads. The judges opined that the issue has to be examined also from the perspective of the general category candidates. “Admittedly, on account of social or other handicaps, some applicants have been granted benefits of age relaxation, which benefits do not apply to applicants belonging to the general category. It may not be permissible to further classify such applicants on the basis of certain additional handicaps or on the basis of caste categories,” the judges said.

The bench also said that if the government thinks of providing age relaxation, then it has to be conscious of the nature of the posts for which the relaxation has been proposed. “The consequences of such conduct of people claiming age relaxation under more than two categories, on a host of relevant factors can, therefore, not be regarded as so inconsequential or so trivial as to presume or commend its adoption even in the absence of any indication to such effect in the rules/executive instructions providing for age relaxations. Therefore, in the absence of any indication in the rules/executive instructions providing for age relaxations, we do not think that it would be safe to adopt such practice,” the judgment authored by Justice Sonak, read.

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