Landmark Judgments on Equality of Opportunity in Public Employment under Article 16

By Aashima Kakkar

Many believe that civil rights need that privileged positions be subject to open competition. The Constitution of India provides varied basic rights partially III underneath that article sixteen provides equality of opportunity in matters of public employment. It’s provided to all citizens of India.

The Constitution of India has given a good interpretation of this text. Equal Employment chance (EEO) principles apply to:

  • Access to jobs
  • Conditions of employment
  • Relationships in the workplace
  • The evaluation of performance and
  • The opportunity for training and career development.[1]

What does Article 16 truly deal with?

“Equality of opportunity in matters of public employment. –

  1. There shall be equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the state.”

Article 16(1) states that there shall be civil rights for the voters within the matter of employment or appointment to any workplace underneath the State. The staff for the govt. services.

The government also can decide associated opt for candidates for the aim of employment as long because the candidates are given civil rights to use for the govt. service.

  1. “No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, residence or any of them, be ineligible for, or discriminated against in respect of, any employment or office under the State.”

Article 16(2) lays down the grounds on that the voters must not be discriminated against for the aim of employment or appointment to any workplace underneath the State. The prohibited grounds of discrimination underneath Article 16(2) area unit faith, race, caste, sex, descent, birthplace, residence, or any of them.

The words ‘any employment or workplace underneath the state’ mentioned in clause two of Article sixteen implies that the same provision refers solely to public employment and to the utilization within the non-public sector.

Article 16(1) and (2) lay down provisions for civil rights of employment within the public sector. However, it’s declared in clause three of Article sixteen that nothing during this article shall stop Parliament from creating any law that prescribes to the voters United Nations agency area unit appointed to any workplace underneath the State in relevance any necessities on residence inside that State or Union territory before employment or appointment to any workplace underneath the State.

  1. “Nothing in this article shall prevent Parliament from making any law prescribing, in regard to a class or classes of employment or appointment to an office [under the Government of, or any local or other authority within, a State or Union territory, any requirement as to residence within that State or Union territory] prior to such employment or appointment.
  2. Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any provision for the reservation of appointments or posts in favour of any backward class of citizens which, in the opinion of the State, is not adequately represented in the services under the State.”

Article 16(4) of the Indian constitution provides for the reservation of services underneath the State in favour of the backward category of voters. The State shall decide whether or not a specific category of voters is backward or not.

Therefore, the State shall lay down acceptable criteria so as to determine whether or not a specific category of voters may be a backward category or not.

“(4A) Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any provision for reservation [in matters of promotion, with consequential seniority, to any class, or classes of posts in the services under the State in favour of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes which in the opinion of the State are not adequately represented in the services under the State.

(4B) Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from considering any unfilled vacancies of a year which are reserved for being filled up in that year in accordance with any provision for reservation made under clause (4) or clause (4-A) as a separate class of vacancies to be filled up in any succeeding year or years and such class of vacancies shall not be considered together with the vacancies of the year in which they are being filled up for determining the ceiling of fifty per cent. reservation on total number of vacancies of that year.

(5) Nothing in this article shall affect the operation of any law which provides that the incumbent of an office in connection with the affairs of any religious or denominational institution or any member of the governing body thereof shall be a person professing a particular religion or belonging to a particular denomination.

(6) Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any provision for the reservation of appointments or posts in favour of any economically weaker sections of citizens other than the classes mentioned in clause (4), in addition to the existing reservation and subject to a maximum of ten per cent. of the posts in each category.”

Landmark Judgments

  • State of J & K. Vs K.V.N.T. Kholo[2]

Meaning of Article 16 clarified

Article 16 provides equality of opportunity in the appointment of public officials. According to the Supreme Court in this case, equality of opportunity means that every citizen is entitled for employment or appointment to any office under the state based on his qualities and capabilities.

As a result, Article 16 does not preclude the state from prescribing the requisite credentials and screening tests for government service recruitment.

  • N. M. Thomas Vs State of Kerala[3]

Understanding the phrase “Matters relating to employment and appointment”

All matters relating to employment, both previous to and subsequent to the employment, which are incidental to the employment and constitute part of the terms and conditions of such employment must be included in the expression “Matters relating to employment and appointment.”

As a result, the guarantee in clause (1) will include:

  • Initial appointments,
  • Promotions,
  • Termination of employment,
  • Salary, periodic increments, leave, gratuity, pension, and age of superannuation, among other things.

Article 16(1) also addresses the principle of equal pay for equal work.

In the case, Justice V.R Krishna Iyer correctly observed that the benefits of reservation were, by and large, snatched up by the top creamy layer of the backward classes or classes, thus keeping the weakest among the weak always weak and leaving the fortunate layers to consume the entire cake.

Measures of greater education and more career prospects have been significantly lessened by the passage of time.

  • K.C. Vasanth Kumar Vs State of Karnataka[4]

Reservation under this article should be made after a mean test

The Supreme Court stated in this case that reservations in favour of backward classes must be based on the mean test.

It has also been suggested that the reservation policy be reassessed every five years or so, and if a class has progressed to the point where it no longer requires reservations. The name of this backward class should be removed from the list.

  • Devadasan Vs Union of India[5]

Scope of Article 16(4)

In, the Supreme Court addressed the scope of Article 16(4). In this case, the government’s “carry forward rule” was used to regulate the appointment of people from lower socioeconomic groups to government positions.

The “carry forward rule” was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court on the grounds that the government’s power cannot be used to deny reasonable equality of opportunity in areas of public employment to members of classes other than backward classes.

Due to the “carry forward rule,” the reserve of postings for members of the backward classes had surpassed 50% and had risen to 68% in this case.

The Supreme Court ruled that each year of recruiting must be assessed separately, and that the reserve for each year should not be exorbitant so as to create a monopoly or unfairly interfere with the rest of society’s legitimate claims.

As a result, the court decided that reservations should be less than 50%, but how much less than 50% should depend on the circumstances.

  • Indra Sawhney & Others Vs Union of India[6]

Reservation in promotion for 5 years


Article 16(4) does not grant reservation in promotion, according to a nine-judge bench, because it only applies to reservations in appointments. All reservations in promotion provided to SCs/STs in government employment are now in jeopardy as a result of the ruling.

This was taken into consideration by the Court. After the 16th of November 1992, the court’s decision permitted reservation in promotion to continue for another five years.

By a 6-3 majority, the Supreme Court’s Constitution Bench issued the following guidelines:

  • In Article 16(4), the backward class of citizens can be designated not only on the basis of economics, but also on the basis of caste.
  • Article 16(4) is not an exception to the general rule (1). This is an example of classification. Article 16 allows for reservations (1).
  • Backward classes in Article 16(4) were not the same as those in Article 15 who were socially and educationally backward (4).
  • The backward classes must not include the creamy layer.
  • Backward classes can be classified into backward and more backward classes under Article 16(4).
  • A backward class of citizens cannot be established solely on the basis of economic factors.
  • Reservations are limited to 50% of total capacity.
  • The ‘EXECUTIVE ORDER’ can be used to make a reservation.
  • In the promotion, there are no reservations.
  • Over-inclusion and under-inclusion complaints are investigated by a permanent statutory body.
  • The majority felt there was no need to voice a view on the Mandal Commission’s exercise’s validity or adequacy.
  • Only the Supreme Court can resolve disagreements about new criteria.

All the above cases were overruled by the judgement in Indira Sawney Case.

Thammu Panduranga Rao & Anr. Vs State of Andhra Pradesh[7]

Appointment of District Judges


It is not open to the Government to choose a candidate for appointment as a District Judge from the Bar unless and until the High Court recommends this person for appointment. Suggest as a rut for employment, says the phrase “recommend.”

The Government was not obligated to adopt all of the High Court’s recommendations, but it might explain to the High Court why it did not accept specific suggestions. If the High Court agreed with the arguments in a specific case, the recommendation in that case was withdrawn, and there was no chance of him being appointed.

But it was clearly improper and inept of the government to write to the High Court and request that it produce a list of those it thought had a credible claim to the position.

‘The High Court’s reply was by no means a recommendation by the High Court that all of the candidates interviewed had reasonable claims or, in other words, that the High Court had no further remarks to offer.

  • M. Nagaraj & Others Vs Union of India & Others[8]


The petitioners in Nagaraj took the 77th, 81st, 82nd, and 85th Amendments to the Supreme Court. In the end, the Court decided that the Amendments were constitutionally invalid. It did, however, impose some limiting requirements, making it more difficult to grant reservations in promotion cases. Reservation in Promotion to SCs/STs was upheld by a five-judge panel as constitutionally sound.

It supported the Article 16(4A) Consequential Seniority Rule, the Article 16(4B) Carry Forward Rule, and the Article 335 Proviso.

The Court did observe, however, that Articles 164A and 4B are enabling laws, and that SC/STs do not have an automatic right to reservation in promotion.

The Court decided that the State must meet three compelling factors in order for reservation in promotion to be valid:

  • Demonstrate the SC/backwardness. ST’s
  • Demonstrate that the SC/ST is underrepresented in important government positions.
  • Maintain the administration’s overall efficiency.
  • M. R. Balaji and Others Vs. State of Mysore[9]

Put a limit of 50% in reservations


The Hon’ble Court has put 50% limit on reservations in this ruling. Almost all states did not exceed 50% limit but State of Rajastan (68% quota including 14% for forward castes, post gujjar violence 2008) and State of Tamil Nadu, in 1980, (69%, Under 9th schedule) exceeded the limit.

Despite the State of Andhra Pradesh tried to exceed the limit in 2005, it was stopped running by the High Court. In 1992, The Supreme court of India in Indira Sawhney & Ors Vs Union of India, upheld Implementation of separate reservation for ”Other Backward Classes” as to central government jobs are concerned. This ruling was implemented.

  • Randhir Singh Vs Union of India & Ors[10]

Put forward the principle of ‘Equal pay for Equal Work’


The Supreme Court observed that although the principle of ‘equal pay for equal work’ did not find an explicit place in the fundamental rights, it certainly constitutes a constitutional goal, therefore, it is capable of being enforced through constitutional remedies under Article 32 of the Constitution.


The slogan “equality of opportunity” has widespread support among citizens of modern cultures. When examined closely, equality of opportunity is divided into various different principles, some of which are diametrically opposed.

It’s debatable which, if any, of these values are morally acceptable, and which, if any, should be enforced through coercion. The concept of a society in which people are not discriminated against because of their race, ethnicity, religion, sex, or sexual orientation is commonly considered as desirable in and of itself.

For many people, the ideal is more powerful than any argument made in defence of it as a matter of justice.


  1. M.P. Jain, Indian Constitutional Law, 109-110(6th ed., 2009)
  2. State of J & K. Vs. K.V.N.T. Kholo AIR 1974 SC
  3. N. M. Thomas Vs. State of Kerala 1976 AIR 490
  4. K.C. Vasanth Kumar Vs. State of Karnataka AIR 1985 S.C. 1495
  5. Devadasan Vs. Union of India, AIR 1964 S.C. 179
  6. Indra Sawhney & Others Vs. Union of India AIR 1993 SC 477
  7. Thammu Panduranga Rao & Anr. Vs. State of Andhra Pradesh (1975)4 SCC 709
  8. M. Nagaraj & Others Vs. Union Of India & Others (2006)8 SCC 212
  9. M. R. Balaji And Others Vs. State Of Mysore (1963) Suppl. 1 SCR 439
  10. Randhir Singh Vs. Union of India & Ors AIR 1982 SC 879

Related Post