karnataka high court

Karnataka High Court: The instant petitions were filed by the aspirants to the posts of Assistant Engineer and Junior Assistant (Electrical) who were aggrieved by Circular No. CSUE 03 HAKKU 2019 dated 01-02-2023 by which the State clarified the manner in which the reservation contemplated under Art 371-J of the Constitution of India is to be applied in respect of candidates hailing from the Kalyana-Karnataka region (formerly known as “the Hyderabad-Karnataka region”). The Bench of N.S. Sanjay Gowda, J.*, while deliberating over these petitions, dismissed the petitions. The Court was of the view that the impugned circular been issued keeping in mind the principle laid down by the Supreme Court that candidates from reserved category would have to be first considered in the General Category and if they were found eligible for selection in the General Category, they were to be fitted into the General Category and it was only if they were unsuccessful in the General Category could they be considered in the Reserved category.

Background: The Government of Karnataka in a span of 8 years issued 6 circulars (including the impugned one) clarifying the way in which reservation was to be applied in the matter of direct recruitment.

Court’s Analysis: Perusing the facts of the case; the scheme of Art. 371-J of the Constitution and series of circulars issued by the State Government since 2015, the Court made the following analysis-

It was noted that the objective of amending the Constitution and making special provisions in respect of the Hyderabad-Karnataka region was to firstly, acknowledge the fact that the Hyderabad-Karnataka region was not as well developed as the other parts of Karnataka and secondly, to make provisions to ensure that it was treated differently and grant incentives to the persons hailing from the region in the matter of providing education and employment (including by promotion to persons hailing from the region) so as to ensure that the Hyderabad-Karnataka region comes out of its backwardness.

It was pointed out that Art 371-J of the Constitution aims to create a situation which provides equitable opportunities and facilities in the matter of public employment. To this end, it enables identification of posts in the Hyderabad-Karnataka region and provides for reservation of a proportion of the posts for persons belonging to the Hyderabad-Karnataka region. It was not the intent of Art. 371-J of the Constitution that the persons from the Hyderabad-Karnataka region should be deprived of an opportunity to seek employment to all the posts available in the State, in the same manner as any other person hailing from other parts of the State possessed.

Vis-à-vis the prior circulars the Court pointed out that State Government, in the guise of obtaining options for allotment in the local cadre post recruitment, could not obviously deprive the local persons of their right to seek for appointment in the non-local cadre. “The State Government, by mandating the exercise of an option by the local persons, was giving them a Hobson’s choice. A candidate had to necessarily exercise his option and by exercising his option, he was basically being pigeon-holed into the local cadre and was, thereby, leaving the non-local cadre only for the persons hailing from regions other than the Hyderabad-Karnataka region”.

Regarding the impugned circular, the Court stated that the State, though went back and forth in the matter of issuing a single notification for both local and non-local cadre posts and issuing separate notifications for both cadre posts, has, ultimately and hopefully, realised that the issuance of separate notifications and adopting separate recruitment processes for the local and non-local cadre posts was more advantageous to a local person hailing from the Hyderabad-Karnataka region and was in line with the constitutional intent underlying Art 371-J of the Constitution. This decision of the State Government cannot be found fault with.

The State Government clarified by the impugned Circular dated 01-02-2023, that even in respect of the notifications issued during the period between 06-06-2020 and 15-06-2022, the options exercised had to be ignored and the local candidates were first required to be considered against the non-local cadre and if they were unsuccessful, their candidature was required to be thereafter considered in respect of the local cadre posts. This decision of the State Government, which was designed to ensure that the chances of a local candidate did not stand diminished by virtue of his forced exercise of an option at the time of making an application, is not faulty.

The Court in an extraordinary measure also issued directions regarding vacancies pertaining to the Assistant Engineers posts. “It is to be borne in mind that we are living in a time where the chances of securing an employment are scarce and by the time the next recruitment takes place, many, if not most of the candidates, would become ineligible”.

  • The State and the KPTCL to treat this as an exceptional case and ask for a fresh option from the local persons hailing from the Hyderabad-Karnataka region who have been found eligible for selection in the non-local cadre, as to whether they would be willing to opt for the local cadre;

  • KPTCL to consider the local persons exercising such an option to choose the local cadre, and then select them against the posts in the local cadre;

  • As a result of this opting by the local persons into the local cadre (notwithstanding the fact that they were entitled to be selected to the non-local cadre posts), if corresponding vacancies become available in the non-local cadre posts, the State and the KPTCL shall then offer these vacancies to non-local candidates on the basis of merit;

  • Make it clear that the selection of the local candidates to the non-local cadre shall be made only if they wish to choose the non-local cadre and they shall not be compelled to opt for the local cadre.

  • Make it clear that no local persons who are found in the provisional select list as of now shall be displaced from the list by reason of the local persons opting for the local cadre under the process directed above. If a situation arises wherein a local person may be displaced from the list of the local cadre posts, the persons from the non-local cadre posts who had opted for the local cadre shall be continued in the non-local cadre only.

  • If the local persons are not entitled to be selected to the local cadre posts, they would have to be necessarily considered against the local cadre posts.

  • In the event it is found that no vacancies arise in the local cadre posts, even after the exercise of options from local persons to opt for the local cadre is concluded, the vacancies shall be carried forward as backlog vacancies, as provided in the Governor’s Order.

[Naveen Kumar v. State of Karnataka, 2023 SCC OnLine Kar 56, decided on 22-08-2023]

*Judgment by Justice NS Sanjay Gowda

Advocates who appeared in this case :

For the petitioners- M.S. Bhagwath, Senior Counsel for Satish.K, Advocate

For respondents- Vikram Huilgol, Additional, Advocate General along with M.S. Nagaraja AGA for R-1 TO R-3;

S. Sriranga, Senior Counsel for SMT. Sumana Naganand, Advocate for R-4;

N.K. Ramesh, Advocate for R-5;

Aditya Sondhi, Senior Counsel for Parashurama A.L., Advocate for R-6 TO R-24;

Udaya Holla, Senior Counsel for Vivek Holla, Advocate for R-25 TO 76

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