Reservation in India
The systems of reservation in India are a series of affirmative actions undertaken through reserving access to seats in the different legislatures, government jobs, and to enrolment in higher educational institutions for castes and tribes recognized in the list of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes as recognized by Government of India. The reservation is undertaken to address the historic oppression, inequality and discrimination faced by members of the dalit and other communities, creating great social, economic and political disadvantage against them. It has been created to realize the promise of equality enshrined in the Constitution.
The basis of reservation is the historic discrimination and oppression, which has led to the entrenched disadvantage which continues today, breaking the social contract of equality assured by the Constitution of India, in the Preamble itself. The Constitution itself prohibits untouchability, under Article 17, and obligates the state to make special provisions for the betterment of the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, also spelling out that such special provisions would not be considered discriminatory, as it would address existing inequality.
Over the years, the categories for affirmative action have been expanded beyond the lists of Scheduled castes and tribes to include a special category of OBC, (officially backward castes). Consideration has also been given to economically backward in providing reservations.
It has not had the results aspired to, as it has not been backed by a more holistic programme that truly addresses historic oppression and inequality.
Reservation is governed by constitutional laws, statutory laws, and local rules and regulations. Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST) and Other Backward Classes (OBC), and in some states Backward Classes among Muslims under a category called BC(M), are the primary beneficiaries of the reservation policies under the Constitution – with the object of ensuring a level playing field.
Quota systems favouring certain castes and other communities existed before independence in several areas of British India. Demands for various forms of positive discrimination had been made, for example, in 1882 and 1891. Shahu, the Maharaja of the princely state of Kolhapur, introduced reservation in favour of non-Brahmin and backward classes, much of which came into force in 1902. He provided free education to everyone and opened several hostels to make it easier for them to receive it. He also tried to ensure that people thus educated were suitably employed, and he appealed both for a class-free India and the abolition of untouchability. His 1902 measures created 50 per cent reservation for backward communities.
The British Raj introduced elements of reservation in the Government of India Act of 1909 and there were many other measures put in place prior to independence. A significant one emerged from the Round Table Conference of June 1932, when the Prime Minister of Britain, Ramsay Macdonald, proposed the Communal Award, according to which separate representation was to be provided for Muslims, Sikhs, Indian Christians, Anglo-Indians, and Europeans. The depressed classes were assigned a number of seats to be filled by election from constituencies in which only they could vote, although they could also vote in other seats. The proposal was controversial: Mahatma Gandhi fasted in protest against it but many among the depressed classes, including their leader, B. R. Ambedkar, favoured it. After negotiations, Gandhi reached an agreement with Ambedkar to have a single Hindu electorate, with Dalits having seats reserved within it. Electorates for other religions, such as Islam and Sikhism, remained separate. This became known as the Poona Pact.
After the independence of India in 1947 there were some major changes in favour of the Scheduled Tribes (ST), Scheduled Castes (SC) and Other Backward Classes (OBC).
In 1954, the Ministry of Education suggested that 20 per cent of places should be reserved for the SCs and STs in educational institutions with a provision to relax minimum qualifying marks for admission by 5 per cent wherever required. In 1982, it was specified that 15 per cent and 7.5 per cent of vacancies in public sector and government-aided educational institutes should be reserved for the SC and ST candidates, respectively.
A significant change began in 1978 when the Mandal Commission was established to assess the situation of the socially- and educationally-backward classes. The commission did not have exact population figures for the OBCs and so used data from the 1931 census, thus estimating the group's population at 52 per cent. In 1980 the commission's report recommended that a reserved quota for OBCs of 27 per cent should apply in respect of services and public sector bodies operated by the Union Government. It called for a similar change to admissions to institutes of higher education, except where states already had more generous requirements. It was not until the 1990s that the recommendations were implemented in Union Government jobs.
The Constitution of India states in article 16(4): "Nothing in [article 16] or in clause (2) of article 29 shall prevent the State from making any special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes." Article 46 of the Constitution 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 Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation."
The Supreme Court of India ruled in 1992 that reservations could not exceed 50 per cent, anything above which it judged would violate equal access as guaranteed by the Constitution. It thus put a cap on reservations. However, there are state laws that exceed this 50 per cent limit and these are under litigation in the Supreme Court. For example, in the State of Tamil Nadu the caste-based reservation stands at 69 per cent and applies to about 87 per cent of the population.
Reservations in elected bodies
In parliament, caste and tribe based reservations are provided to make it more representative.. Today, out of 543 seats in India's parliament, 84 (15.47%) are reserved for SC/Dalits and 47 (8.66%)for ST/Tribes. Allocation of seats for Scheduled Castes and Tribes in the Lok Sabha are made on the basis of proportion of Scheduled Castes and Tribes in the State concerned to that of the total population.
A similar percentage of exclusive seats has been provided for members of designated castes and tribes in each state legislature. Local self-governments have caste, tribe and gender based reservation system in place.
Reservations in employment.
A fixed percentage of India's government and public sector jobs are made exclusive for categories of people largely based on their caste or tribe.
The 1992 Supreme Court ruling in the Indra Sawhney case said that reservations in job promotions are "unconstitutional" but allowed its continuation for five years. In 1995, the 77th amendment to the Constitution was made to amend Article 16 before the five-year period expired to continue with reservations for SC/STs in promotions. It was further modified through the 85th amendment to give the benefit of consequential seniority to SC/ST candidates promoted by reservation.
The 81st amendment was made to the Constitution to permit the government to treat the backlog of reserved vacancies as a separate and distinct group, to which the ceiling of 50 per cent did not apply. The 82nd amendment inserted a provision in Article 335 to enable states to give concessions to SC/ST candidates in promotion.
The validity of all the above four amendments was challenged in the Supreme Court through various petitions clubbed together in M. Nagaraj & Others vs. Union of India & Others, mainly on the ground that these altered the Basic Structure of the Constitution. In 2006, the Supreme Court upheld the amendments but stipulated that the concerned state will have to show, in each case, the existence of "compelling reasons" - which include "backwardness", "inadequacy of representation" and overall "administrative efficiency - before making provisions for reservation. The court further held that these provisions are merely enabling provisions. If a state government wishes to make provisions for reservation to SC/STs in promotion, the state has to collect quantifiable data showing backwardness of the class and inadequacy of representation of that class.
In 2007, the Government of Uttar Pradesh introduced reservation in job promotions. However, citing the Supreme Court decision, the policy was ruled to be unconstitutional by the Allahabad High Court in 2011. The decision was challenged in the Supreme Court, which upheld it in 2012 by rejecting the government's argument because it failed to furnish sufficient valid data to justify the move to promote employees on a caste basis.
Reservations in education
In India most of the scholarships or student aid is available only to—SCs, STs, BCs, OBCs, women, Muslims, and other minorities. Only about 0.7% of scholarships or student aid in India is based on merit.
The University Grants Commission (UGC) provides financial assistance to universities for the establishment of Special Cells for SC/STs. The cells help universities implement the reservation policy in student admission and staff recruitment processes for teaching and non-teaching jobs. They also help the SC/ST categories integrate with the university community and help remove the difficulties SC/ST individuals may have experienced.
New rules implementation of UPA Government do not provide scholarship scheme and reservation quota of students and employees of colleges under central University and State University approved by the UGC.
Beneficiary groups of the reservation system
The quota system sets aside a proportion of all possible positions for members of a specific group. Those not belonging to the designated communities can compete only for the remaining positions, while members of the designated communities can compete for either reserved or open position.
Seats are reserved for people under the following criteria:
In central-government funded higher education institutions, 22.5% of available seats are reserved for Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST) students (7.5% for STs, 15% for SCs). This reservation percentage has been raised to 49.5% by including an additional 27% reservation for OBCs. This ratio is followed even in Parliament and all elections where a few constituencies are earmarked for those from certain communities (which will next rotate in 2026 per the Delimitation Commission).
The exact percentages vary from state to state:
- In Tamil Nadu, the reservation is 18% for SCs and 1% for STs, based on local demographics.
- In Northeast India, especially in Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Mizoram, reservation for ST in State Govt. jobs is 80% with only 20% unreserved. In the Central Universities of NEHU(shillong) and Rajiv Gandhi University, 60% of seats are reserved for ST students.
- In Andhra Pradesh, 25% of educational institutes and government jobs are reserved for OBCs, 15% for SCs, 6% for STs and 4% for Muslims.
- In West Bengal, 35% of educational institute seats and government jobs are reserved for SC, ST, and OBC (22% SC, 6% ST, 7% for OBC A & B)in West Bengal there is no reservation on religious basis but some economically and educationally backward Muslim castes(basis surnames pertaining to different profession e.g. cobbler, weaver etc.) have been included along with their Hindu counterparts in OBC list namely OBC A and OBC B, in both lists caste from both communities are there. But in higher educational institute, till now there is no reservation for the OBC community but there is reservation in regard to admission in primary, secondary and higher secondary studies.
The Women's Reservation Bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha on 9 March 2010 by a majority vote of 186 members in favour and 1 against. As of March 2013, the Lok Sabha has not voted on the bill. Critics say gender cannot be held as a basis for reservation alone other factors should also be considered e.g. economic, social conditions of woman candidate especially when applying reservation for educated women. There also is a growing demand for women reservation in pre-existing reservations like OBC, SC/ST, physically handicapped etc. Some groups still demand that reservation for women should be at least 50 per cent as they comprise 50 per cent of the population.
There is no reservation granted on the basis of religion in the Central educational institutions at the national level, although reservation has been extended to religious minorities in some states. The Tamil Nadu government has allotted 3.5% of seats each to Muslims and Christians, thereby altering the OBC reservation to 23% from 30% (since it excludes persons belonging to Other Backward Castes who are either Muslims or Christians).
The Government of Andhra Pradesh introduced a law enabling 4 per cent reservations for Muslims in 2004. This law was upheld by the Supreme Court in an interim order in 2010 but it constituted a Constitution bench to look further into the issue. The referral was to examine the constitutional validity of quotas based on religion. Kerala Public Service Commission has a quota of 12% for Muslims. Religious minority (Muslim or Christian) educational institutes also have 50% reservation for Muslim or Christian religions. The Central government has listed a number of Muslim communities as backward Muslims, making them eligible for reservation.
The Union Government on 22 December 2011 announced establishment of a sub-quota of 4.5% for religious minorities within the existing 27% reservation for Other Backward Classes. The reasoning given was that Muslim communities that have been granted OBC status are unable to compete with Hindu OBC communities. It was alleged that the decision was announced as the Election Commission announced Assembly elections in five states on 24 December 2011. The government would not have been able to announce this due to the model code of conduct. On 12 January 2012, the Election Commission stayed implementation of this decision for violation of the model code of conduct. Later, Justice Sachar, head of the Sachar Committee that was commissioned to prepare a report on the latest social, economic and educational condition of the Muslim community of India, criticised the government decision, saying "Such promises will not help the backward section of minorities. It is like befooling them. These people are making tall claims just to win elections". He suggested that instead of promising to give reservations, the government should focus on basic issues of improving administration and governance.
On 28 May 2012, the Andhra Pradesh High Court quashed the sub-quota. The court said that the sub-quota has been carved out only on religious lines and not on any other intelligible basis. The court criticised the decision: "In fact, we must express our anguish at the rather casual manner in which the entire issue has been taken up by the central government."
Some reservations are also made for:
- Terrorist victims from Kashmir, e.g. in Punjab
- Single girl child (in Punjab)
- Migrants from the state of Jammu and Kashmir
- Sons/daughters/grandsons/granddaughters of Freedom Fighters
- Physically handicapped
- Sports personalities
- Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) have a small percentage of reserved seats in educational institutions. (Note : NRI reservations were removed from IIT in 2003)
- Candidates sponsored by various organisations
- Those who have served in the armed forces ('ex-serviceman' quota—because the age of superannuation in the military is much shorter than that in the civil posts; more so, certain intakes are tenure-based, e.g. the contract for Short-Service Commission is eight years)
- Dependents of armed forces personnel killed-in-action
- Reservation in special schools of Government Undertakings/ PSUs, for the children of their own employees (e.g. Army schools, PSU schools, etc.)
- Paid pathway reservations in places of worship (e.g., Tirumala Venkateswara Temple, Tiruthani Murugan temple)
- Seat reservation for Senior citizens and physically handicapped in public (bus) transport.
Reservations in Andhra Pradesh
The state of Andhra Pradesh has one of the highest percentage of reservations in India in any form. 66.66% reservations are applicable in the state, as follows:
- Scheduled Classes (A, B, C, D) – 15%
- Scheduled Tribes – 6%
- Backward Classes (A, B, C, D) – 25%
- Physically Handicapped (Blind, Deaf & Dumb and OPH) – 3% (1 per cent each)
- Ex-servicemen (APMS only) – 1% (0.5% in general)
- Women - 33.33% (in all categories, means 16.66% in general category)
- School Admissions Under RTE : Though Andhra Pradesh Govt says economically backward children are admitted in to private schools under Right To Education (RTE) Act, but the fact is children are admitted in to private schools based on caste based reservations. check page 9 and Point no 4 of this below document
The reservation for women cuts across all classes and communities and is a horizontal and not vertical reservation. As such the total % of reservations has to be counted at 50% only; and that is in consonance with the Supreme Court dicta that reservations in general ought not to exceed 50% of the posts/seats if the right to equal opportunity to all without discrimination guaranteed under Article 16 is to be vindicated and respected.
Reservations in Maharashtra
Maharashtra has 52% reservation in educational institutions and government jobs. The government of Maharashtra added Marathas (16%) and some Muslim subcastes (5%) to the reservation in 2014 but the move was rejected by the Mumbai High Court later. If this reservation to Maratha implemented, it will leave the remaining 23% to General/Open category.
Excluded from the reservation system
People in the following categories are not entitled to take advantage of the reservation system for OBCs:
|Categories for Rule of Exclusion||Rule of Exclusion Applies to the following:|
|Constitutional posts||The sons and daughters of the President of India, the Vice-President of India, Judges of the Supreme Court of India, the High Courts chairman, the members of Union Public Service Commission, members of the State Public Service Commission, Chief Election Commissioner, Comptroller Auditor-General of India or any person holding positions of a constitutional nature.|
|Service Category: Those who are considered Group ‘A’/Class I officers of the All India Central and State Services (Direct Recruits) or those who are considered Group 'B'/ Class II officers of The Central and State Services (Direct Recruitment) or those who are employees in the Public Sector.||Those who have parent(s) that are Class I or Class II officers, or both parents are Class I or Class II officers but one of them dies or suffers permanent incapacitation. The criteria used for sons and daughters of Group A and B are the same for the employees of the Public sector.|
|Armed forces including Paramilitary Forces (Persons holding civil posts are not included).|| The sons and daughters of parents either or both of whom is or are in the rank of colonel and above in the army or in equivalent posts in the Navy, the Air Force, and the Paramilitary Force. But that will hold true provided that-
|Professional class and those engaged in Trade and Industry||If a person has a high paying job such as physician, lawyer, chartered accountant, income tax consultant, financial or management consultant, dental surgeon, engineer, architect, computer specialist, film artist or other film professional, author, playwright, sports person, sports professional, media professional or any other vocations of like status. If the husband holds one of the above jobs and the wife doesn't then the husband's income will be taken into consideration and if the wife holds one of the above jobs then the wife's income will be taken into consideration.The income of the family as a whole will be taken into account because the whole point of the reservation system is to raise the social status of the people that belong to the SC's, ST's and OBCs and if a family's income is high already it is considered that it raises their social status as well.|
|Property owners- agricultural, plantations (coffee,tea,rubber,etc.), vacant land and/or buildings in urban areas||Sons and daughters of those who have irrigated land area which is equal to or more than 85% of the statutory ceiling area will be excluded from reservation. They would only be under reservation if the land is exclusively unirrigated. Those with vacant buildings can use them for residential, industrial or commercial purposes, hence they are not covered under reservations.|
|Creamy layer||Son(s)/daughter(s) of those who earn ₹6 lakh (₹600,000) or more annually for three consecutive years are excluded from reservation.|
The term creamy layer was first coined in 1975 in the State of Kerala vs N. M. Thomas case when a judge said that the “benefits of the reservation shall be snatched away by the top creamy layer of the backward class, thus leaving the weakest among the weak and leaving the fortunate layers to consume the whole cake”. The 1992 Indra Sawhney vs Union of India judgement laid down the limits of the state’s powers: it upheld the ceiling of 50 per cent quotas, emphasised the concept of “social backwardness”, and prescribed 11 indicators to ascertain backwardness. The judgement also established the concept of qualitative exclusion, such as “creamy layer”. The creamy layer applies only to OBCs. The creamy layer criteria was introduced at Rs 1 lakh in 1993, and revised to Rs 2.5 lakh in 2004, Rs 4.5 lakh in 2008 and Rs 6 lakh in 2013. In October 2015, the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) proposed that a person belonging to OBC with an annual family income of up to Rs 15 lakh should be considered as minimum ceiling for OBC. The NCBC also recommended sub-division of OBCs into "backward", "more backward" and "extremely backward" groups and to divide the 27 per cent quota amongst them in proportion to their population, to ensure that stronger OBCs do not corner the quota benefits.
Institutions exempted from reservation
- Homi Bhabha National Institute, Mumbai and its ten constituent units, namely:
- Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Trombay
- Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research, Kalpakkam
- Raja Ramanna Centre for Advanced Technology, Indore
- Institute for Plasma Research, Gandhinagar
- Variable Energy Cyclotron Centre, Kolkata
- Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, Kolkata;
- Institute of Physics, Bhubaneshwar
- Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Chennai
- Harish-Chandra Research Institute, Allahabad
- Tata Memorial Centre, Mumbai
- Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai
- North Eastern Indira Gandhi Regional Institute of Health and Medical Sciences, Shillong
- Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad
- Space Physics Laboratory, Thiruvananthapuram
- Indian Institute of Remote Sensing, Dehradun
- Shri Mata Vaishno Devi University, Katra
- Birla institute of Technology and Science, Pilani
- LNM Institute of Information Technology, Jaipur
On 27 October 2015 the Supreme Court directed the state and the Central governments to end the regional quota and to ensure that super-speciality medical courses are kept "unreserved, open and free" from any domicile status after the court had allowed petitions files by some MBBS doctors.
Advances under the reservations system
The public sector jobs are divided into 4 categories: Class I (or Group A), Class II (or Group B), Class III (or Group C) and Class IV (or Group D). The Class I employees take up 2.2% of the public sector workforce, the Class II employees take up 3.3% of the public sector workforce, the Class III employees take up 66.8% of the public sector workforce, and the Class IV employees take up 27.2% of the public sector workforce. Below are the percentages of the SC employees in the Central government:
* excludes sweepers
The above table shows that over time as the new laws for the reservation systems were passed employment of SC's in Class I, II, III, and IV public sectors increased substantially.
- Court Cases Relating to India's Reservation System
- Dhangar Scheduled tribe issue
- Caste politics in India
- Reservation policy in Tamil Nadu
- Self-immolations in India
- Jat reservation agitation
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(4) Reservation being extreme form of protective measure or affirmative action it should be confined to minority of seats. Even though the Constitution does not lay down any specific bar but the constitutional philosophy being against proportional equality the principle of balancing equality ordains reservation, of any manner, not to exceed 50%." ,"Reservation in promotion is constitutionally impermissible as, once the advantaged and disadvantaged are made equal and are brought in one class or group then any further benefit extended for promotion on the inequality existing prior to be brought in the group would be treating equals unequally. It would not be eradicating the effects of past discrimination but perpetuating it.
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We reiterate that the ceiling-limit of 50%, the concept of creamy layer and the compelling reasons, namely, backwardness, inadequacy of representation and overall administrative efficiency are all constitutional requirements without which the structure of equality of opportunity in Article 16 would collapse.", "As stated above, the impugned provision is an enabling provision. The State is not bound to make reservation for SC/ST in matter of promotions.
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- National Commission for Backward Classes
- National Commission for Scheduled Castes
- National Commission for Scheduled Tribes
- Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment