Reservation in India

Reservations in public employment:

  • The extension of reservation in India is based on the mutual coexistence of Article 16 (1) of the Constitution which guarantees “equality of opportunity in public employment” and provisions mentioned in various clauses of the same article namely Article 16(4) and Article 16 (4 A).
    • These articles provide a discretion to the government to consider extending reservations for the socially and educationally backward classes and to provide reservations in the promotion of SC and STs.
  • It has been clarified by the Supreme Court that there is “no fundamental right to reservation or promotion” under the articles Article 16(4) and Article 16 (4 A).
    • Articles 16(4) and 16 (4 A) just provided enabling options for extending reservations if needed.
  • The Directive Principle of State Policy (DPSP) Article 46 of the constitution, however mandates the state to promote the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people, particularly that of the SCs, STs and other weaker sections.

Evolution of reservations in public employment in India

  • The Mandal committee report and Indra Sawhney judgement
    • As per the Mandal Committee recommendations (1980), the reservations were extended to Other Backward Classes (OBCs) which were erstwhile restricted to SCs and STs.
    • The Mandal Committee recommended extending 27% reservation to OBCs in central services and PSUs over the existing 22.5% reservation for SCs and STs.
    • In the historic Indra Sawhney Judgment (1992), the apex court upheld the 27% reservation to OBCs but introduced a ceiling of 50% for reservations unless in exceptional situations. 
    • The SC also reiterated that Article 16(1) is a fundamental right and Article 16(4) is an enabling provision and not an exception to Article 16(1)
    • Further, the SC ordered for the exclusion of the creamy layer from reservation through horizontal division of OBCs into creamy layer and non-creamy layer.
  • 77th Constitution Amendment Act, 1995
    • This Act inserted Article 16(4-A) that extended reservations for promotion in employment for SCs and STs which are not adequately represented in the opinion of the State.
    • Later, two more amendments were introduced that ensured consequential seniority [Article 16(4 A)] and another that provided to carry forward unfilled vacancies of a year [Article 16(4 B)]
  • Judgement in M. Nagaraj case, 2006
    • A constitutional bench of SC consisting of five judges declared the 1995 amendments violated the basic structure of the Constitution and provided conditions which included the collection of “quantifiable data showing backwardness of the class and inadequacy of representation of that class in public employment”
    • The bench also asked for the exclusion of the creamy layer of SCs and STs from the reservation.
  • Jarnail Singh v/s Lachhmi Narain Gupta case, 2018
    • The SC in this judgement rejected the need to collect “quantifiable data” in relation to SCs and STs 
    • The Court however upheld the application of the concept of creamy layer to SCs and STs.
    • The Jarnail Singh judgment is said to be a crucial development in the jurisprudence of reservation in India.
  • 103rd Constitution Amendment Act, 2019
    • The act provided 10% reservation for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS), other SCs, STs and backward classes for public employment and educational purposes.
  • Dr. Jaishri Laxmanrao Patil v/s Chief Minister case, 2021
    • Despite the Indra Sawhney judgement, many states in the past have attempted to extend the reservations over the 50% ceiling and the Maharashtra Socially and Educationally Backward Classes Act 2018 was challenged in the Supreme Court
    • The Supreme Court upheld the Indra Sawhney ruling and struck down Sections in the Act that provided 12% reservation for Marathas in educational institutions and 13% reservation in public employment respectively, noting that reservations were not made out of any extraordinary situations to exceed the 50% limit.

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