This article provides a thorough analysis of India's caste-based reservation
system, documenting its development from the period before independence to the
present day. Commencing in 1949, constitutional measures were introduced to
tackle gender inequalities. Subsequently, the emphasis switched towards
implementing caste-based reservations, which were influenced by British models.
The article examines pivotal legal decisions that have influenced reservation
laws and emphasises the recommendations made by the Mandal Commission in 1980,
which ultimately resulted in the establishment of a 27% quota for Socially and
Educationally Backward Classes in 1990.
It challenges the appropriateness of
implementing reservation policies in light of a literacy rate of 74.04% and
expresses worries over its influence on academic stress and student suicides.
The discussion revolves around the incorporation of Maratha reservation and its
impact on the existing 50% cap limit, provoking contemplation on the necessity
of policy modifications to synchronise with societal transformations.
supports the implementation of an adaptable legal strategy that can accommodate
the changing requirements of society, while also dealing with the intricate and
conflicting aspects of the reservation system.
With a focus on the caste-based reservation system, this essay analyses
affirmative action in India from a constitutional and social development
perspective. After setting the stage with pre-independence history, it explores
where reservation came from, beginning with the British Communal Award of 1933.
Exploring the expansion of reservation to solve social and educational
backwardness, the narrative develops via significant judicial battles and
constitutional revisions. In a society that has seen enormous demographic
changes and expansion, the study examines the modern applicability of reserve
and poses important considerations regarding its need.
Beginning with a
discussion of current events like the Maratha reservation and how it affects the
50% cap, the introduction then juxtaposes these with disturbing data on student
suicides caused by academic demands associated with caste-based discrimination.
Finally, the paper addresses the difficulties and controversy surrounding
affirmative action in India and calls for a nuanced revaluation of reservation
policy, proposing changes that are in line with the current socio-economic
Affirmative Action: A Historical Overview and Its Evolution
Article 14 of The Indian Constitution says that every person is equal before the
law and is entitled to the equal protection of the law. Everything has its own
pros and cons and there is no doubt in it, to make it more justifiable let's
dive in the era of 1946 where the "Literacy Rate" was only 16.1% in India and
country was demanding for great changes according to its need which gave birth
to recognizing the importance of giving some specific position to women, keeping
this demand of time in mind, in 1949 Article 15(3) was introduced in the Indian
Constitution which gives the State power to bring specific acts or law for women
In simple terms, this was the positive form of discrimination
which empowers state to make laws specifically for women and children. The term
Reservation means to reserve some seats for people fulfilling specific criteria.
Reservation itself has a vast history and it is not a new concept for India as
in 1882, William Hunter and Jyotirao Phule thought about caste-based reservation
system for the very first time. Even in 1902, Maharaja of the princely state of
Kolhapur, Rajarshi Shahu, introduced a reservation system.
His model was to
favor non-brahmins and backward classes, but anyhow the current reservation
system is truly inspired from the British Prime Minister, Ramsay Macdonald. He
presented the Communal Award in 1933. After Independence, in the beginning
phase, only SC's and ST's were enjoying reservation and Madras started giving
reservation only on the basis of religion, in medical colleges, because of this
and Champakam Dorairajan v. State of Madras
, Article 15(4) was introduced
through 1st Constitutional Amendment Act 1951 which gives power to state that
they can make special provision for SEBC (Socially and Educationally Backward
Class) , SC (Schedule Caste), ST (Schedule Tribe) for their advancement and
just after this Clause was introduced state of Maysore passed a government order
and applyed reservation on every college of medical and engineering, Backward
Class - 28%, SC:- 15%, ST:- 3% and MBC:- 22% (Most Backward Class this was the
new concept introduced by Maysore government) Overall government reserve 68% of
seats which was kind of against natural justice. This was challenged in M.R.
Balaji V. State of Mysore
and the apex court struck down the order and stated
while recognizing backward classes the state must consider Social and
The State cannot give reservation only on the basics of
caste other than this the 50% cap ceiling was introduced and More Backward Class
announced to be invalid. India has seen the bloodiest riots and protests in the
country for the caste-based reservation system given by Britishers around 1990
because reservation was introduced in jobs too by Article 16 (3) and (4) of
Indian Constitution also because of carry forward rule.
Devdason V. Union of
it is also known as carry forward rule case which basically means if the
seat got vacant this year, then it would be carry forward to the next year
adding up but what if it exceed form 50% so it was mentioned in the case it self
that if it exceed from 50% then it will be invalid this shows how reservation is
gradual evolved as the time passed.
In 1978, The president appointed a commission in December 1978 to find out how
many SEBC classes are there in India under the chairmanship of B.P. Mandal.
After one year the Mandal Commission submitted the report in 1980 and according
to the report a total of 3,743 castes are SEBC and gave a recommendation of
providing 27% in government jobs.
After 10 years, in 1990, Prime Minister V.P.
Singh implemented it SEBC:
27% of reservation was given along with this, it
was said reservation cannot be exceed from 50% and confined to appointment not
promotion which basically means that a person can get job on the basics of
reservation but reservation in promotion won't be allowed, this was the case of
Indra Sawhaney V. Union of India.
Anyhow, parliament realized that Indra
Sawaney's judgment was wrong, and they brought Article 16(4A) (77th Amendment
Act) and 16(4B) (81 Amendment Act). Article 16(4A) allowed reservation in
promotion for SC & ST and from 16(4B) ended 50% ceiling on reservation for SC &
ST which definitely create the problem of Backlog vacancy
Its looks like a loop
has been created where single law is revolving continuously but the big question
is that, Do we still need reservation when we have literacy rate of 74.04 per
cent, 82.14 for males and 65.46 for females? As we know, reservation was
introduced when our literacy rate was just around 16.1%. If yes, then what
should be the basis or the grounds for the reservation?
There is no rocket
science in understanding the basic fact that with exponential changes in the
structure of society, we may need to amend or update policies such as
reservation. Recently, Maratha reservation was introduced a few years back which
states to make Marathas as socially and educationally backward class and as a
result it broke the 50% cap ceiling. Also, due to the Maratha quota issue, in
reservation, a 16-Year-Old Student Committed Suicide in Ahmednagar.
In this case
apex court held:
"the classification of Marathas as a socially and educationally backward class
was unreasonable as they belonged to a politically dominant caste with
significant economic resources."
According to an report from 2007 to 2016,
nearly 75,000 students committed suicide and the major causes were Academic
pressure created due to caste-based discrimination, imposed on them in the form
of reservation. These statistics force us to put up the questions that need to
be raised at some point or the other.
So now it is us and our democratically
elected government, who have to decide whether we still need the reservation in
its current form? Shouldn't it be amended now according to the current
caricature of the society, as our society has shown immense growth in the past
few decades and the barriers of caste and class had been narrowed down
exponentially. Why do we still fear to even hold discussions over sensitive
topics like reservation and necessary reforms in the policy of reservation?
There was an American Judge, Benjamin Cardozo who said law should be a flexible
instrument of necessity to bring in the welfare of the society, so law is for
society and social changes are natural from generation to generation, according
to current situation reservation is also needed to amend.
The words of Justice Cardozo hold great value in this deadlock situation of Indian reservation
policy. It has now become difficult to explain whether the step of reservation
was a failure of the government or a success? There is a reason behind it
though, due to these reservation policies the backward classes of this nation
developed and grew immensely but now the same policy is being reason behind the
suicides of several innocent children of so-called upper or privileged class.
The irony is, the policy that had been a push factor for backward classes is now
no longer necessary, at the very least in my personal opinion, reservation was a
good concept but with some time limitation as mentioned before everything has
pros and cons so if anything is been used excessively it become the substance
which is in existence but not in use and if it is then not in that form as it
The instrument that was brought for the necessary welfare of weaker
sections of society has now become a privilege for them which they at no cost
are ready to drop. It still confuses me whether the change in reservation policy
will be labelled as a radical change or a liberal one?
These all have only one solution, which is to amend the law so that only those
people who truly need the benefits of reservation can get them. Another
important point is that deserving candidates should benefit those who have the
ability to qualify if education is provided under reservation because providing
a job and then a promotion makes no sense.
Even this idea may be used
retrospectively to prevent dispute in the issue of individuals who have already
completed their education and working how they can benefit so that they can also
enjoy the scheme due to the retrospect approach.
- Champakam Dorairajan v. State of Madras AIR 1951 SC 226
- M.R. Balaji V. State of Mysore 1963 AIR 649, 1962 SCR Supl. (1) 439
- Devdason V. Union of India 1964 AIR 179, 1964 SCR (4) 680
- Indra Sawhaney V. Union of India AIR 1993 SC 477; 1992 Supp 2 SCR 454
- Chopra, M. (2021). Reservation system in India: advantages and disadvantages. International journal of economic perspectives, 15(1), 30-37.