T. Devadasan v. The Union of India and Anr.

Case name:T. Devadasan v. The Union of India and another
Case Citation:1964 AIR 179, 1964 SCR (4) 680
Date of Judgement:29 August 1963
BenchDas, Sudhi Ranjan (CJI), Subbarao, K., Dayal, Raghubar, Ayyangar, N. Rajagopala, Mudholkar, J.R.  
Petitioner:T. Devadasan
Respondent:The Union of India and another


In T. Devadasan v. Union of India case, a rule of the Central Government reserved about 17.5 percent positions or seats in the Central services for the SCs & STs. This reservation was made with a condition of carrying forward the unfilled quota to the next year only if suitable candidates were not be found or was invalidated on the ground that gathering the 17.5 percent in total three years would come down to approximately 54 percent and in the following case it was 64 percent because out of 45 vacancies, 29 was available to the reserved quota.

For instance, in a special and extraordinary situation, the court quoted that as far as the far-flung remote area is concerned whose population is required to be given special treatment to bring them into the mainstream. In such cases, the court mentioned to undertake extreme caution. The 50 percent limit does not comprise the members of SEBCs who get selected on the basis of their merit. They are exposed to be adjusted against the open category. For the implication of 50 percent rule, a year shall be taken as one unit and not as an entire strength of the cadre, service, or the unit itself, depending on the case.

As long as the limit is to be regarded, carry forward rule is permittable and therefore the Court decided to overrule Devadasan’s case on this point. Coming to the point of 50 percent limit the Court rejected saying that Article 16(4) is an exception to Article 16(1) and Article 15(4) is an exception to Article 15(1) but depending upon the balancing of interests under the two provisions and on the reasonable exercise of power under Article 16(4).

Introduction to parties:

The petitioner, Mr. T Devadasan is an Assistant in Grade IV of the Central Secretariat Service, recruited in the year 1956.

Related provisions:

Article 32, the Indian Constitution

  • Under Article 32 a person can seek remedies by moving the Supreme Court when the individual’s rights granted under Part III of the Constitution are violated.
  • Under this Article, the Supreme Court has the supreme power to issue writs to enforce the rights and duties available under this Part and also in case of violation of any fundamental rights.
  • The Parliament also has the power to allow any other court to exercise similar powers as the Supreme Court within the reserved limits of its jurisdiction.
  • These remedies available under this Article cannot be suspended until there is a constitutional amendment.

Article 16(3)

There shall be equal opportunity available for all citizens in matters regarding employment or appointment of a person to any office or department under the State.

Article 16(4)

Nothing in this Article shall prevent the State from forming any provision concerned to reservation of appointments/posts for any backward class of citizens which, according to the opinion of the State, is not an adequate position to represent themselves in the services under the State. 

Article 15(4) and 15(5)

The Constitution of India gives the government the supreme power to form special provisions “for the betterment of any socially and educationally backward classes of society” which also takes in to account the scheduled castes and the scheduled tribes as well.                                                                     

Article 46

The State shall promote the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the society with extra care and attention, and, in particular, of the backward classes such as Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, and shall protect them from social and economical injustice and also from every other form of exploitation.

Article 335

The claims of the individuals belonging to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes shall be taken into consideration, every time with the adequate and proper maintenance of efficiency status of the administration while providing appointments and posts in the services and maintain unbiasedness with the affairs of the Union or the State.

Facts of the case:

The petitioner, who is a graduate and forth became an Assistant in Grade IV of the Central Secretariat Service recruited in the year of 1956 later he was made permanent on January 1, 1958. In the next posting, he was looking forward to obtaining the post of Section Officer (Assistant Superintendent) in the same service. Recruitment procedure for the Section officer’s post goes as follows :

  • 40%  was granted by direct recruitment process from those candidates who have availed the lower ranks in the I.A.S. etc., examination ;
  • 30% was provided by promotion from Grade IV to Grade III based on the departmental examination that took place in intervals by the U.P.S.C.
  • lastly, 30% was again granted based on promotion status from Grade IV with regard to the seniority-cum-fitness.

On February 6, 1960, the Union Public Service Commission released a notification stating that only limited competitive examination would be held in June 1960 for promotion to the post of Assistant Superintendents of the Central Secretariat Service. The notification included the reservation amount available which is of 12- 1/2% of the vacancies, which would be provided for the members of the Scheduled Castes and 5% would be made available for the members of Scheduled Tribes. The result of this examination was declared by the Union Public Service Commission in April 1961.

The results recommended 16 candidates for the appointment in unreserved vacancies and 28 candidates in reserved vacancies. Along with it soon the U.P.S.C. recommended 2 more candidates who belonged to Scheduled Castes/Tribes for the respected posts. The number of vacancies which were expected to be occupied was 48 seats out of which 16 posts were for unreserved categories and the remaining 32 posts for reserved categories, yet the U.P.S.C. suggested the names of only 30 applicants for the latter group of vacancies. The Government, however, made just 45 appointments out of which 29 were for the candidates belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

The petitioner here makes a point that the percentage of marks which he has secured in the examination was 61 and the percentage of marks secured by a few of the other 29 candidates belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Tribes was near 35 as pointed out by the petitioner. It was not competent of the U.P.S.C. to recommend one particular qualifying standard for members of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and another completely different qualifying standard for the rest of the candidates.

Issues Raised

  1. Whether the “carry forward rule” as amended in 1955 is unconstitutional considering two major and only ground which is, either its operation will destroy the fundamental right guaranteed by Article 16(1) of the Indian constitution or is it because it becomes violative of the Article 14 of the Indian Constitution?


In the present case, the State created a provision, adopting the principle of “carrying forward rule” which in place of fixing a higher percentage into the second and third selection process decided based on earlier results. It was established that the vacancies saved in one selection for the candidate belonging Scheduled Castes and Tribes but who did fill the form up by themselves rather it was filled by some other candidates, shall be added to the quota fixed for those particular Scheduled Castes and Tribes in the next selection time and similarly in the upcoming selection after that.

As the positions secured in the first year for the Scheduled Castes and Tribes were occupied by non-Scheduled Caste applicants and non-Scheduled Tribe applicants, it was decided that the next selection posts available were proportionately reduced which caused hardship to the candidates who applied for the second or the third selection which had already benefitted them in the earlier selections. This injustice to such candidates, which seemed to be successive in the application of the provision of reservation did not seek to implement the objective of reservations.

There are no merits in the principle of “carry forward rule” as it has resulted in the third year selection of candidates belonging to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes to a tune of 80 percent of the total applicants for that year. Therefore, the selection amounted to the destruction of the fundamental rights of the remaining applicants. If the reservation was under the competency of the State, there is no question of how the said contingent circumstance would arise and affect the reservation as already set. That being said reservation made in the first selection or succeded over later second and third selections is just a convenient method of application of the provision of reservation. Until it is proved that an unreasonably disproportionate amount of cadre strength is being filled up by those belonging to said Scheduled Castes and Tribes, it is not appropriate to say that the provision is not one of reservation but amounts to a violation of the fundamental right. There is no such allegation or evidence available in this case to that effect.

Gajendragadkar, J., held in the Court, following reasons for deciding that the provisions made were opposite to Article 15(4) of the Indian Constitution:

  • The aspect of backwardness is not directed to be in relation to any classes who are backward compared to other more advanced classes of the society which should be included in it. But rather the measuring standard to decide who is backward and who is not must be based on social and educational level.
  • The criteria used by the State in verifying the social and educational backwardness of a community was found to be neither correct nor sound.
  •  The sub-division made as per the order between the backward classes and even inadequately more backward classes is not justified under Article 15(4). The Honourable Judge looked back on the history of the order and considered all the important and useful circumstances which helped them to hold that reservation of 68 percent posts in the followed circumstances of the case it was declared that it was a fraud on the constitutional power delegated on the State by Article 15(4) of the Constitution.

Therefore, it can be seen that the judgment passed down by the Court was based on two main grounds, that is, firstly that the State had adopted wrong criteria for identifying who were backward classes and secondly on the ground that the State has committed a fraud on its constitutional power.


The common observations made after reading the judgement is that this criterion of viewing the reservation and applying it over the appointment of the candidates in a particular sector or service is not appropriate for the colleges. The question of violation of fundamental rights depends on the entire appearing candidates’ strength and the amount or the percentage of the same reserved for the posts. Further, it is also noted that the observations were targeted only to make a workable guide and not to make an inflexible rule of law even in case of admissions to colleges.

Therefore, the author cannot contend that in the present case the provision formed by the State was not for reservation but for a purpose not sanctioned by the Constitution. As a result, the Honorable Court was right in dismissing the writ petition with cost bearings.


  1.  https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1466728/
  2. https://india.lawi.asia/t-devadasan-v-the-union-of-india-and-anr-2/

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