Disputed Reservation in India

Disputed Reservation in India

Recently a political activist from Gujarat named Hardik Patel who belongs to a rich and well settled family and society was in news for inclusion of Patel caste in the Other Backward Class (OBC) category in order to qualify for the reserved quota in education and government jobs. He was arrested and detained for agitating the mob against state. This want for reservation is not new and it has been seen in our country several times before. The Gurjars, Dalits and many more communities want reservation to secure their place in the world’s largest democracy. Nearly every political organization in India has supported the reservation system which includes UPA, Left Front, BJP, BSP, RJD, JDU, SP etc. The reason behind their support is to diverge vote banks towards their parties.


The process of reserving and keeping aside a certain percentage of seats (vacancies) in government institutions for the people of backward classes is known as reservation. Quotas are decided for each class and they are ruled by constitutional, customary and local laws.

Reservation is based on classification and separation of castes in our society. It has its roots deep in the Vedic Age of India. At that time the classification was according to the profession. There were four different sects of society – The Brahmins (Preachers of God, teachers and Priests), The Kshatriyas (warriors), The Vaishyas (Businessmen), The Shudras (lower caste workmen like cobblers). Later the Bristishers and other foreign rulers created a discrimination system in Indian society. In 1933, The British PM Ramsay Macdonald started Communal Award which was opposed by Mahatma Gandhi and supported by Dr. B.R.Ambedkar. The award provided separate representation to Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Indian Christians, Anglo-Indians, Dalits etc. The Gurjars, Dalits, Patels and many more communities want reservation to secure their place in the world’s largest democracy. Nearly every political organization in India has supported the reservation system which includes UPA, Left Front, BJP, BSP, RJD, JDU, SP etc. The reason behind their support is to diverge vote banks towards their parties.

At present stage even in Parliament out of 543 seats, 84 are reserved for SC (Scheduled Caste)/Dalits and 47 for ST(Scheduled Tribes).

Constitutional Perspective

  • The 1st clause of Art 15. of the Constitution directs the state not to discriminate against a citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth or any of them.
  • Clause 5( Added by Constitution Act, 2006) provides that nothing in Art.15 or in sub-clause (g) of Clause(1) of Art.19 shall prevent the State from making any special provision, by law, for the advancement of any socially and educationally Backward classes of citizens or for the SC or ST.
  • Art.16(4) enables the State to make provision for the reservation of posts in government jobs in favour of any backward class of citizens which, in the opinion of the government, is not adequately represented in the services of State.
  • Art.46 states that The State shall promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people, and, in particular, of the SC and the ST and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.

In Ashok Kumar Thakur v. Union of India, a five judge bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice K.G.Balakrishnan held that the Constitution Act,2006 providing 27% reservation in admission to OBC candidates in higher educational institutions like IIT’s and IIM’s is constitutional.

Reservation in education system according to UGC

According to the UGC (University Grants Commission), the universities which come under UGC have to follow a scheme of reservation which is –

  • SC – 16%
  • ST – 20%
  • OBC – 14%
  • Women quota – 30%
  • Physically handicapped seat – 1
  • J & K migrants seat – 1
  • J & K resident seat – 1
  • NRI seat – 1
  • Defence seat – 1

Reservation in job sector has been a topic of discussion since a long time for which Mandal Commission was set-up. The Mandal Commission was established in India in 1979 by the Janata Party government under Prime Minister Morarji Desai with a mandate to “identify the socially or educationally backward.” It was headed by Indian Parliamentarian Bindeshwari Prasad Mandal (B.P.Mandal) to consider the question of seat reservations and quotas for people to redress caste discrimination, and used 11 social, economic and educational indicators to determine backwardness. In 1980, the commision’s report affirmed the affirmative action practice under Indian law whereby members of lower castes (OBC, ST and Sc) were given exclusive access to a certain portion of government jobs and slots in public universities and recommended changes to these quotas, increasing them by 27% to 49.5%. The judgment provided a clear view for this.Reservation in job sector

Indra Sawhney v. Union of India – The Mandal Case

The nine judges bench of the Supreme Court held that-

  1. The Backward classes of citizens is not defined in the constitution. There is an integral connection between caste, occupation, poverty and social backwardness.
  2. The backward classes can be identified in Hindu society with reference to castes alongwith other criteria such as traditional occupation, poverty, place of residence, lack of education etc. and in communities where caste is not identified, the rest of criteria shall apply.
  3. The backwardness contemplated by Art. 16(4) is mainly social.
  4. There should be imposition of an income limit for the purpose of exclusing persons from the backward classes. They are called ‘Creamy Layer’ which should be excluded form reservation.
  5. Reservation under Art. 16(4) is not applicable in promotion.
  6. Reservation under Art. 16(4) should not exceed 50%.
  7. Identification of backward classes is subject to judicial review.


Mobilisation on caste lines had followed the political empowerment of ordinary citizen by the constitution of free India that allowed common people to politically assert themselves through the right to vote. Reservation was given for the purpose of competition and upliftment of a particular society but in the present scenario the situation is completely different. The gap between inferior and superior has been fulfilled and the SC and ST people are living with all the standard norms for a good lifestyle in this country. The condition is becoming worst for the unreserved class of people as uneven advantages are being redeemed by the creamy layer of the reserved class. Reservation must not be caste based instead it must be according to the financial status of a family. The reserved class doesn’t want to seek opportunities with their caliber, they just want a well developed system to be spoon–feeded. As India is a diversified nation, reservation policy needs amendment else this country will again burn in the dirty politics of caste based discrimination.