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Reservation in Indian law is a quota system whereby a percentage of seats are reserved in the public sector units, union and state government departments and in all public and private educational institutions, except in the religious/ linguistic minority educational institutions, for the socially and educationally backward communities and the Scheduled Castes and Tribes who are inadequately represented in these services and institutions. The reservation policy is also extended for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes for representation in the Parliament of India. The central government of India reserves 27% of higher education, and individual states may legislate further reservations. Reservation in most states is at 50%, the maximum amount declared constitutional by the supreme court, but certain Indian states like Rajasthanmarker have proposed a 68 % reservation which includes a 14% reservation for forward castes.


Reservations are intended to increase the social diversity in campuses and workplaces by lowering the entry criteria for certain identifiable groups that are grossly under-represented in proportion to their numbers in the general population. Caste is the most used criteria to identify under-represented groups. However there are other identifiable criteria for under-representation—gender (women are under represented), state of domicile (North Eastern States, as Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are under-represented), rural people, etc. -- as revealed by the Government of India sponsored National Family Health and National Sample surveys.

The underlying theory is that the under-representation of the identifiable groups is a legacy of the Indian caste system. After India gained independence, the Constitution of India listed some erstwhile groups as Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST). The framers of the Constitution believed that, due to the caste system, SCs and the STs were historically oppressed and denied respect and equal opportunity in Indian society and were thus under-represented in nation-building activities. The Constitution laid down 15% and 7.5% of vacancies to government aided educational institutes and for jobs in the government/public sector, as reserved quota for the SC and ST candidates respectively for a period of five years, after which the situation was to be reviewed. This period was routinely extended by the following governments and the Indian Parliament, and no revisions were undertaken.

Later, reservations were introduced for other sections as well. The Supreme Court ruling that reservations cannot exceed 50% (which it judged would violate equal access guaranteed by the Constitution) has put a cap on reservations. However, there are state laws that exceed this 50% limit and these are under litigation in the Supreme Court. For example, the caste-based reservation fraction stands at 69% and is applicable to about 87% of the population in the state of Tamil Nadu (see section on Tamil Nadu below).

History of the practice

Reservations in favour of Backward Classes (BCs) was introduced long before Independence in a large area, comprising the Presidency areas and the Princely States south of the Vindhyas. Chatrapati Sahuji Maharaj, Maharaja of Kolhapur in Maharashtra introduced reservation in favour of backward classes as early as 1902 to eradicate poverty from amongst them and to give them their due share in the State administration. The notification of 1902 created 50% reservation in services for backward classes/communities in the State of Kolhapur. This notification is the first Govt. Order providing for reservation for the welfare of depressed classes in India.

The concept of untouchability was not practiced uniformly throughout the country, the identification of oppressed classes is not an easy task. What is more, the practice of segregation and untouchability prevailed more in the southern parts of India and was more diffused in Northern India. An additional complexity is that there are certain castes/ communities, which are considered as untouchables in one province but not in other provinces. Some castes, based on traditional occupations, find place in both Hindu and non-Hindu communities. Listing of castes has had a long history, starting from the earliest period of our history with Manu. Medieval chronicles contain description of communities located in various parts of the country. During the British colonial period, listings were undertaken after 1806, on an extensive scale. The process gathered momentum in course of the censuses from 1881 to 1931.

The Backward Classes movement also first gathered momentum in South India particularly in Tamil Nadu. The continuous efforts of some of the social reformers of the country viz. Rettamalai srinivasa Paraiyar, Ayothidas Pandithar , Jyotiba Phule, Babasaheb Ambedkar, Chhatrapati Sahu ji Maharaj and others, completely demolished the wall created by the upper classes between them and the untouchables.

India is divided into many endogamous groups, or castes and sub-castes, as a result of centuries of practicing a form of social hierarchy called the caste system. Proponents of reservation policy says that the traditional caste system, as it is practised, leads to severe oppression and segregation of the lower castes and limited their access to various freedoms, including education. Caste, according to ancient scriptures such as "Manu Smriti", is "Varnasrama Dharma", which translates to "offices given according to class or occupation". "Varna" in Varnasrama (Varna + Ashrama)is not to be confused with the same word meaning 'colour'. The practice of caste in India followed this rule.

    • 1882 - Hunter Commission appointed. Mahatma Jyotirao Phule made a demand of free and compulsory education for all along with proportionate reservation/representation in government jobs.
    • 1891-The demand for reservation of government jobs was made as early as 1891 with an agitation in the princely State of Travancore against the recruitment of non-natives into public service overlooking qualified native people.
    • 1901-Reservations were introduced in Maharashtra in the Princely State of Kolhapur by Shahu Maharaj. Reservations in the princely states of Baroda and Mysore were already in force.
    • 1908-Reservations were introduced in favour of a number of castes and communities that had little share in the administration by the British.
    • 1909- Provisions were made in the Government of India Act 1909
    • 1919- Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms introduced.
    • 1919 - Provisions were made in the Government of India Act 1919
    • 1921-Madras Presidency introduces Communal G O in which reservation of 44 per cent for non-Brahmins, 16 per cent for Brahmins, 16 per cent for Muslims, 16 per cent for Anglo-Indians/ Christians and eight per cent for Scheduled Castes.
    • 1935-Indian national congress passes resolution called Poona Pact to allocate separate electoral constituencies for depressed classes.
    • 1935 - Provisions in Government of India Act 1935.
    • 1942-B.R.Ambedkar established the All India Depressed Classes federation to support the advancement of the scheduled castes. He also demanded reservations for the Scheduled castes in government services and education.
    • 1946- 1946 Cabinet Mission to India proposes proportionate representation with several other recommendations.
    • 1947-India obtained Independence. Dr. Ambedkar was appointed chairman of the drafting committee for Indian Constitution. The Indian constitution prohibits discrimination on the grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex and place of birth . While providing equality of opportunity for all citizens, the constitution contains special clauses "for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes". Separate constituencies allocated to Scheduled Castes and Tribes to ensure their political representation for 10 years.(These were subsequently extended for every 10 years through constitutional amendments).
    • 1947-1950- Debates of the Constituent Assembly.
    • 26/01/1950-The Constitution of India came in force.
    • 1953-Kalelkar Commission was established to assess the situation of the socially and educationally backward class. The report was accepted as far as Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes were concerned. The recommendations for OBC's were rejected.
    • 1956-Schedules amended as per Kaka Kalelkar report.
    • 1976-Schedules amended.
    • 1979-Mandal Commission was established to assess the situation of the socially and educationally backward. The commission didn't have exact figures for a sub-caste, known as the Other Backward Class(OBC), and used the 1930 census data, further classifying 1,257 communities as backward, to estimate the OBC population at 52%.
    • 1980-the commission submitted a report, and recommended changes to the existing quotas, increasing them from 22% to 49.5%. number of castes in Backward class list went up to 2297 which is the increase of 60% from community list prepared by Mandal commission.
    • 1990-Mandal commission recommendations were implemented in Government Jobs by Vishwanath Pratap Singh. Student Organisations launched nationwide agitations. Rajiv Goswami Delhi university student attempted self-immolation. Many students followed suit.
    • 1991-Narasimha rao Government introduced 10% separate reservation for Poor Among Forward Castes.
    • 1992-Supreme court upheld reservations to Other backward classes in Indira Sawhney Case. Also see Reservations and Judiciary section
    • 1995-Parliament by 77th Constitutional amendment inserted Art 16(4) (A) permitting reservation in promotions to the Schedule Castes and Schedule Tribes. Later it was further amended to include consequential seniority by 85th amendment.
    • 1998-Central Government conducted large nationwide survey for the first time to estimate economical and educational status of various social groups.. The National Sample Survey puts the figure at 32%[279694]. There is substantial debate over the exact number of OBC's in India, with census data compromised by partisan politics. It is generally estimated to be sizable, but lower than the figures quoted by either the Mandal Commission or and national Sample Survey[279695].Mandal commission has been criticised of fabricating the data. National surveys indicated that status of OBC is comparable to Forward castes in many areas.[279696]
    • 2005 August 12 - The Supreme Court delivered a unanimous judgement by 7 judges on August 12, 2005 in the case of P.A. Inamdar & Ors. vs. State of Maharashtra & Ors.declaring that the State can't impose its reservation policy on minority and non-minority unaided private colleges, including professional colleges.
    • 2005-93rd Constitutional amendment brought for ensuring reservations to other backward classes and Scheduled castes and Tribes in Private Educational institutions. This effectively reversed the 2005 August Supreme Court judgement.
    • 2006-The Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in M.Nagraj & Ors Vs. Union of India & Ors upheld the constitutional validity of Art 16(4) (A), 16(4) (B) and proviso to Art 335.
    • 2006-Reservations introduced for Other backward classes in Central Government Educational Institutions. Total Reservation went up to 49.5%. Also See Recent Development.
    • 2007-Supreme Court give stayed on OBC reservation in Central Government Educational Institutions.
    • 2008—The Supreme Court of India on April 10, 2008, upheld the Government's move for initiating 27% OBC quotas in Government funded institutions. The Court has categorically reiterated its prior stand that "Creamy Layer" should be excluded from the ambit of reservation policy. The Supreme Court avoided answering the question whether reservations can be made in private institutions, stating that the question will be decided only as and when a law is made making reservations in private institutions. The verdict produced mixed reactions from supporting and opposing quarters.
Several criteria to identify creamy layer has been recommended, which are as follows:

Those with family income above Rs 250,000 a year should be in creamy layer, and excluded from the reservation quota. Also, children of doctors, engineers, chartered accountants, actors, consultants, media professionals, writers, bureaucrats, defence officers of colonel and equivalent rank or higher, high court and Supreme Court judges, all central and state government Class A and B officials. The court has requested Parliament to exclude MPs’ and MLAs’ children, too.

Reservations and Judiciary

Indian Judiciary has pronounced some Judgments upholding reservations and some judgments for fine tuning its implementations. Lot of judgments regarding reservations have been modified subsequently by Indian parliament through constitutional amendments. Some judgments of Indian judiciary has been flouted by state and central Governments. Given below are the major judgments given by Indian courts and its implementation status:

Year Judgement Implementation Details
1951 Court has pronounced that caste based reservations as per Communal Award violates Article 15(1).(State of Madras Vs. Smt. Champakam Dorairanjan AIR 1951 SC 226) 1st constitutional amendment (Art. 15 (4)) introduced to make judgement invalid.
1963 Court has put 50% cap on reservations inM R Balaji v Mysore AIR 1963 SC 649 Almost all states except Tamil Nadu (69%, Under 9th schedule) and Rajasthan (68% quota including 14% for forward castes, post gujjar violence 2008) has not exceeded 50% limit. Tamil Nadu exceeded limit in 1980. Andhra Pradesh tried to exceed limit in 2005 which was again stalled by high court.
1992 Supreme court in Indira Sawhney & Ors v. Union of India. AIR 1993 SC 477 : 1992 Supp (3)SCC 217 upheld Implementation of separate reservation for other backward classes in central government jobs. Judgement implemented
Ordered to exclude Creamy layer of other backward classes from enjoying reservation facilities. All states except Tamil Nadu implemented. Recent Reservation bill for providing reservations to other backward classes in educational institutions also has not excluded Creamy layer in some states. (Still under the consideration of Standing committee).
Ordered to restrict reservations within 50% limit. All states except Tamil Nadu followed.
Declared separate reservations for economically poor among forward castes as invalid. Judgement implemented
In General Manager, S. Rly. v. Rangachari AIR 1962 SC 36, State of Punjab v. Hiralal 1970(3) SCC 567, Akhil Bharatiya Soshit Karamchari Sangh (Railway) v. Union of India (1981) 1 SCC 246 it was held that Reservation of appointments or posts under Article 16(4)included promotions. This was overruled in Indira Sawhney & Ors v. Union of India. AIR 1993 SC 477 : 1992 Supp (3) SCC 217 and held that Reservations cannot be applied in promotions.Union of India Vs Varpal Singh AIR 1996 SC 448,Ajitsingh Januja & Ors Vs State of Punjab AIR 1996 SC 1189,Ajitsingh Januja & Ors Vs State of Punjab & Ors AIR 1999 SC 3471,M.G.Badappanavar Vs State of Karnataka 2001 (2) SCC 666. Ashok Kumar Gupta: Vidyasagar Gupta Vs State of Uttar Pradesh. 1997 (5) SCC 20177th Constitution amendment (Art 16(4 A) & (16 4B) introduced to make judgement as invalid.M. Nagraj & Ors v. Union of India and Ors. AIR 2007 SC 71 held the amendments constitutional.1. Art. 16(4)(A) and 16(4)(B) flow from Art. 16(4). Those constitutional amendments do not alter structure of Art. 16(4).2. Backwardness and inadequacy of representation are the controlling/compelling reasons for the state to provide reservations keeping in mind the overall efficiencies of state administration.3. Government has to apply cadre strength as a unit in the operation of the roaster in order to ascertain whether a given class/group is adequately represented in the service. Roaster has to be post specific with inbuilt concept of replacement and not vacancy based.4. If any authority thinks that for ensuring adequate representation of backward class or category, it is necessary to provide for direct recruitment therein, it shall be open to do so.5. Backlog vacancies to be treated as a distinct group and are excluded from the ceiling limit of 50%.6. If a member from reserved category gets selected in general category, his selection will not be counted against the quota limit provided to his class and reserved category candidates are entitled to compete for the general category post.7. The reserved candidates are entitled to compete with the general candidates for promotion to the general post in their own right. On their selection, they are to be adjusted in the general post as per the roster and the reserved candidates should be adjusted in the points earmarked in the roster to the reserved candidates.8. Each post gets marked for the particular category of candidate to be appointed against it and any subsequent vacancy has to be filled by that category alone (replacement theory).R K Sabharwal Vs St of Punjab AIR 1995 SC 1371 : (1995) 2 SCC 745.
In Union of India Vs Varpal Singh AIR 1996 SC 448 andAjitsingh Januja & Ors Vs State of Punjab AIR 1996 SC 1189it was held that a roster point promotees getting the benefit of accelerated promotion would not get consequential seniority and the seniority between the reserved category candidates and general candidates in promoted category shall be governed by their panel position. This was overruled inJagdish Lal and others v. State of Haryana and Others (1997) 6 SCC 538 it held that the date of continuous officiation has to be taken into account and if so, the roster- point promotees were entitled to the benefit of continuous officiation.Ajitsingh Januja & Ors Vs State of Punjab & Ors AIR 1999 SC 3471 overruled Jagdish LalM G Badappanvar Vs St of Karnataka 2001(2) SCC 666 : AIR 2001 SC 260 held that roster promotions were meant only for the limited purpose of due representation of backward classes at various levels of service and therefore, such roster promotions did not confer consequential seniority to the roster point promotee. By 85th Constitution amended Consequential Seniority was inserted in Art 16 (4)(A) to make the judgement invalid.M. Nagraj & Ors v. Union of India and Ors. AIR 2007 SC 71 held the amendments constitutional.Jagdish Lal and others v. State of Haryana and Others (1997) 6 SCC 538 it held that the date of continuous officiation has to be taken into account and if so, the roster- point promotees were entitled to the benefit of continuous officiation.
S. Vinodkumar Vs. Union of India 1996 6 SCC 580 held that relaxation of qualifying marks and standard of evaluation in matters of reservation in promotion was not permissible By the Constitution (82nd) Amendment Act a proviso was inserted at the end of Art 335.M. Nagraj & Ors v. Union of India and Ors. AIR 2007 SC 71 held the amendments constitutional.
1994 Supreme court advised Tamilnadu to follow 50% limit Tamilnadu Reservations put under 9th Schedule of the constitution.I.R. Coelho (Dead) by LRS. Vs. State of T.N. 2007 (2) SCC 1 : 2007 AIR(SC) 861Held, Ninth Schedule law has already been upheld by the court, it would not be open to challenge such law again on the principles declared by this judgment. However, if a law held to be violative of any rights in Part III is subsequently incorporated in the Ninth Schedule after 24 April, 1973, such a violation/infraction shall be open to challenge on the ground that it destroys or damages the basic structure as indicated in Article 21 read with Article 14, Article 19 and the principles underlying thereunder. Action taken and the transctions finalized as a result of the impugned Acts shall not be open to challenge.
2005 In Unni Krishnan, J.P. & Ors. Vs. State of AndhraPradesh & Ors. (1993 (1) SCC 645), it was held that right to establish educationalinstitutions can neither be a trade or business nor can it be aprofession within the meaning of Article 19(1)(g). This wasoverruled in T.M.A.Pai Foundation v. State of Karnataka (2002) 8 SCC 481,P.A.Inamdar v. State of Maharashtra 2005 AIR(SC) 3226Supreme court ruled that reservations cannot be enforced on Private Unaided educational institutions. 93rd constitutional amendment introduced Art 15(5).Ashoka Kumar Thakur vs. Union of India1.The Constitution (Ninety-Third Amendment) Act, 2005 doesnot violate the "basic structure" of the Constitution so far as itrelates to the state maintained institutions and aided educationalinstitutions. Question whether the Constitution (Ninety-ThirdAmendment) Act, 2005 would be constitutionally valid or not so faras "private unaided" educational institutions are concerned, is leftopen to be decided in an appropriate case.2."Creamy layer" principle is one of the parameters to identify backward classes. Therefore, principally, the "Creamy layer" principle cannot be applied to STs and SCs, as SCsand STs are separate classes by themselves.3. Preferably there should be a review after ten years to take note of the change of circumstances.4. A mere graduation (not technical graduation) or professional deemed to be educationally forward.5. Principle of exclusion of Creamy layer applicable to OBC's.6. The Central Government shall examine as to the desirability of fixing a cut off marks inrespect of the candidates belonging to the Other Backward Classes (OBCs)to balance reservation with other societal interests and to maintain standards of excellence. This would ensure quality and merit would not suffer. If any seats remain vacant after adopting such norms they shall be filled up by candidates from general categories.7. So far as determination of backward classes is concerned, a Notification should be issuedby the Union of India. This can be done only after exclusion of the creamy layer for whichnecessary data must be obtained by the Central Government from the State Governments and Union Territories. Such Notification is open to challenge on the ground of wrongful exclusion or inclusion. Norms must be fixed keeping in view the peculiar features in different States andUnion Territories. There has to be proper identification of Other Backward Classes (OBCs.). For identifying backward classes, the Commission set up pursuant to the directions of this Court in Indra Sawhney 1 has to work more effectively and not merely decide applications for inclusion or exclusion of castes.8.The Parliament should fix a deadline by which time free and compulsory education will havereached every child. This must be done within six months, as the right to free and compulsoryeducation is perhaps the most important of all the fundamental rights (Art.21 A). For without education, it becomes extremely difficult to exercise other fundamental rights.9.If material is shown to the Central Government that the Institution deserves to be included in the Schedule (institutes which are excluded from reservations) of The Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act, 2006 (No. 5 of 2007), the Central Government must take an appropriate decision on the basis of materials placed and on examining the concerned issues as to whether Institution deserves to be included in the Schedule of the said act as provided in Sec 4 of the said act.10. Held that the determination of SEBCs is done not solely based on caste and hence, the identification of SEBCs is not violative of Article 15(1) of the Constitution.

Relevant Cases

  1. See Arts 12, 14, 15, 16, 19, 335 of the Constitution of India.
  2. State of Madras Vs. Smt. Champakam Dorairanjan AIR 1951 SC 226
  3. General Manager, S. Rly v. Rangachari AIR 1962 SC 36
  4. M R Balaji v. State of Mysore AIR 1963 SC 649
  5. T. Devadasan v Union AIR 1964 SC 179.
  6. C. A. Rajendran v. Union of India AIR 1965 SC 507.
  7. Chamaraja v Mysore AIR 1967 Mys 21
  8. Barium Chemicals Ltd. Vs Company Law Board AIR 1967 SC 295
  9. P. Rajendran Vs. State of Madras AIR 1968 SC 1012
  10. Triloki Nath Vs. State of Jammu and Kashmir AIR 1969 SC 1
  11. State of Punjab vs. Hira Lal 1970(3) SCC 567
  12. State of A.P. Vs U.S.V. Balram AIR 1972 SC 1375
  13. Kesavanand Bharti v St of Kerala AIR 1973 SC 1461
  14. State of Kerala Vs N. M. Thomas AIR 1976 SC 490 : (1976) 2 SCC 310
  15. Jayasree Vs. State of Kerala AIR 1976 SC 2381
  16. Minerva Mills Ltd Vs Union (1980) 3 SCC 625 : AIR 1980 SC 1789
  17. Ajay Hasia v Khalid Mujib AIR 1981 SC 487
  18. Akhil Bharatiya Soshit Karamchari Sangh Vs Union (1981) 1 SCC 246
  19. K. C. Vasant Kumar v. Karnataka AIR 1985 SC 1495
  20. Comptroller & Auditor-General of India, Gian Prakash Vs K. S. Jaggannathan (1986) 2 SCC 679
  21. Hindustan Zinc Ltd. Vs A. P. State Electricity Board (1991) 3SCC 299
  22. Indira Sawhney & Ors v. Union of India AIR 1993 SC 477 : 1992 Supp (3) SCC 217
  23. Unni Krishnan v. State of A.P. and Ors. (1993 (1) SCC 645)
  24. R K Sabharwal Vs St of Punjab AIR 1995 SC 1371 : (1995) 2 SCC 745
  25. Union of India Vs Varpal Singh AIR 1996 SC 448
  26. Ajitsingh Januja & Ors Vs State of Punjab AIR 1996 SC 1189
  27. Ashok Kumar Gupta: Vidyasagar Gupta Vs State of Uttar Pradesh. 1997 (5) SCC 201
  28. Jagdish Lal and others v. State of Haryana and Others (1997) 6 SCC 538
  29. Chander Pal & Ors Vs State of Haryana (1997) 10 SCC 474
  30. Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh Vs. Faculty Association 1998 AIR(SC) 1767 : 1998 (4) SCC 1
  31. Ajitsingh Januja & Ors Vs State of Punjab & Ors AIR 1999 SC 3471
  32. Indira Sawhney Vs. Union of India. AIR 2000 SC 498
  33. M G Badappanvar Vs St of Karnataka 2001(2) SCC 666 : AIR 2001 SC 260
  34. T.M.A.Pai Foundation v. State of Karnataka (2002) 8 SCC 481
  35. NTR University of Health Science Vijaywada v. G Babu Rajendra Prasad (2003) 5 SCC 350
  36. Islamic Academy of Education & Anr. v. State of Karnataka & Ors. (2003) 6 SCC 697
  37. Saurabh Chaudri & Ors. v. Union of India & Ors. (2003) 11 SCC 146
  38. P.A.Inamdar v. State of Maharashtra 2005 AIR(SC) 3226
  39. I.R. Coelho (Dead) by LRS. Vs. State of T.N. 2007 (2) SCC 1 : 2007 AIR(SC) 861
  40. M. Nagraj & Ors v. Union of India and Ors. AIR 2007 SC 71
  41. Ashok Kumara Thakur Vs Union of India. 2008

Types of Reservation

Seats in educational institutions and jobs are reserved based on a variety of criteria. 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 all positions (reserved and open). For example, when 2 out of 10 clerical positions in railways are reserved for ex-servicemen, those who have served in the Army can compete both in the General Category as well as in the specific quota.

Caste based

Seats are reserved for Schedules Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Other Backward Castes (based chiefly on caste at birth) in varying ratio by the central government and state government. This caste is decided based on birth, and can never be changed. While a person can change his religion, and his economic status can fluctuate, the caste is permanent. In central government funded higher educTypes of ReservationSeats in educational institutions and jobs are reserved based on a variety of criteria. 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 all positions (reserved and open). For example, when 2 out of 10 clerical positions in railways are reserved for ex-servicemen, those who have served in the Army can compete both in the General Category as well as in the specific quota.

In central government funded higher education institutions, 22.5% of available seats are reserved for Scheduled Caste (Dalit)and Scheduled Tribe (Adivasi) students (15% for SCs, 7.5% for STs). This reservation percentage has been raised to 49.5%, by including an additional 27% reservation for OBCs [10]. In AIIMS 14% of seats are reserved for SCs, 8% for STs. In addition, SC/ST students with only 50% scores are eligible. This ratio is followed even in Parliament and all elections where few constituencies are earmarked for those from certain communities. In a few states like Tamil Nadu, the percentage of reservation is 18% for SCs and 1% for STs, being based on local demographics. In Andhra Pradesh, 25% of educational institutes and government jobs for BCs, 15% for SCs, 6% for STs and 4% for Muslims.

Management quota

Most controversial quota is the Management quota according to the advocaters of Pro-caste reservation people.This is so because it violates all the arguments given by the anti reservation people and still they don't seem to ever protest against it. It reserves about 15- 50 % seats in private colleges for the students who are decided by the college management's own criteria. The criteria involves the colleges own entrance exam or minimum %age of 10+2 legally.

Religion based

The Tamil Nadumarker 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's argument is that this sub-quota is based on the backwardness of the religious communities and not on the religions themselves.

Andhra Pradeshmarker's administration has introduced a law enabling 4% reservations for Muslims. This has been contested in court. Kerala Public Service Commission has a quota of 12% for Muslims. Religious minority status educational institutes also have 50% reservation for their particular religions.

State of domiciles

With few exceptions, all jobs under state government are reserved to those who are domiciles under that government. In PEC Chandigarh, earlier 80% of seats were reserved for Chandigarh domiciles and now it is 50%.Institutes like JIPMER have a policy of reserving postgraduate seats for those who completed their MBBS in JIPMER. AIIMS used to reserve 33% of its 120 postgraduate seats for the 40 undergraduate students (meaning everyone who had completed MBBS in AIIMS was assured a postgraduate seat, which was judged illegal by a Court.

Undergraduate colleges

Institutes like JIPMER have a policy of reserving postgraduate seats for those who completed their MBBS in JIPMER. AIIMS used to reserve 33% of its 120 postgraduate seats for the 40 undergraduate students (meaning everyone who had completed MBBS in AIIMS was assured a postgraduate seat, which was judged illegal by a Court.

Other criteria

Some reservations are also made for:

  • Sons/Daughters/Grandsons/Grand daughters of Freedom Fighters.
  • Physically handicapped.
  • Sports personalities.
  • Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) have a small fracton of reserved seats in educational institutions. They have to pay more fees and pay in foreign currency (Note : NRI reservations were removed from IIT in 2003).
  • Candidates sponsored by various organizations.
  • Those who have served in the armed forces (ex-serviceman quota).
  • Dependants of armed forces personnel killed in action.
  • Repatriates.
  • Those born from inter-caste marriages.
  • Reservation in special schools of Govt. Undertakings /PSUs meant for the children of their employees (eg. Army schools, PSU schools, etc.).
  • Paid pathway reservations in places of worship (eg. Tirupathi Balaji Temple, Tiruthani Murugan (Balaji) temple).
  • Seat reservation for Senior citizens/ PH in Public Bus transport.


In view of the fact that several of the top undergraduate and graduate institutions in India, such as the IITs, the IIMs are among the most selective in the world, it is not surprising that most reservation criteria are applied at the stage of entrance examinations for these institutions. Some of the criteria are relaxed for reserved categories, while others are completely eliminated. Examples include:

  1. The minimum high school marks criteria are relaxed for reserved seats.
  2. Age
  3. Fees, Hostel Room Rent etc

It is important to note, however, that the criteria required to graduate from an institution are never relaxed, although some institutions provide reduced load programs (such as the ones at IITs) to meet the special needs of these students.

Reservation policy in Tamil Nadu

Historical perspective

The reservation system in Tamil Nadumarker is much in contrast to the rest of India, not by the nature of reservation but by its history.When the first reservation protest hit New Delhi in May 2006, a contrasting quiet serenity was noticed in Chennai. Later, as the anti-reservation lobby gained in visibility in Delhi, Chennai saw quiet street protests demanding reservation. Doctors in Chennai, including doctors association for social equality(DASE) were in the forefront expressing their support for reservation in institutions of higher education run by the Central government.

Present practice

At present, in day to day practise, reservation works out to somewhat less than 69%, depending on how many non-reserved category students are admitted in the super-numerary seats. If 100 seats are available, first, two merit lists are drawn up without considering community (reserved or unreserved), one for 31 seats and a second for 50 seats, corresponding to 69% reservation and 50% reservation respectively. Any non-reserved category students placing in the 50 seat list and not in the 31 seat list are admitted under super-numerary quota (i.e.) seats are added to the 100 for these students. The 31 seat list is used as the non-reserved open admission list and 69 seats are filled up using the 69% reservation formula (30 seats obc, 20 seats mbc, 18 seats sc and 1 seat st). The effective reservation percentage depends on how many non-reserved category students figure in the 50 list and not in the 31 list. At one extreme, all 19 (added from 31 to make the 50 list) may be non-reserved category students, in which case the total reservation works out to about 58%(69/119); this might also be argued to be (69+19)/119 or 74% with the 19% considered as a 'reservation' for non-reserved category students! At the other extreme, none of the 19 added to the 31 list may be from the non-reserved category, in which case no super-numerary seats are created and reservation works out to be 69% as mandated by the state law.


Tamilnadu Reservations
Sourced from a new article.

16% Reservation for SC/ST and 25% Reservation for OBCs introduced. Total Reservation Stood at 41%

Sattanathan Commission recommended Introduction of "Creamy Layer" and altering Reservation percentage for Backward Classes to 16% and separate reservation of 17% to Most Backward Classes (MBCs).

DMK Government increased OBC reservation to 31% and Reservation for SC/ST has been increased to 18%. Total Reservation stood at 49%

ADMK government excludes "Creamy Layer" from OBC reservation benefits. Income Limit for availing Reservation benefit has been fixed at Rs 9000 Per Annum. DMK and other Opposition parties protested the decision.

Creamy Layer scheme withdrawn and Reservation % for OBC has been increased to 50%. Total Reservation Stood at 68%

Statewide Road Blockade Agitations were launched by Vanniar Sangam (Parent Body of Pattali Makkal Katchi) demanding 20% reservations in State Government and 2% Reservations in Central Government exclusively for Vanniyar Caste.

DMK Government Split OBC reservations as 2 Parts with 30% for OBC and 20% for MBC. Separate Reservation of 1% introduced for Scheduled Tribes. Total Reservation percentage stood at 69%.

Supreme Court, in Mandal Judgement, reiterated that Reservation percentage cannot exceed 50% and "Creamy Layer" to be excluded from Reservation benefits.

Court instructed Tamil Nadu Government to follow 50% reservations in the case filed by famous lawyer K. M. Vijayan on behalf of VOICE Consumer forum. Anandakrishnan, one of the members of Oversight committee, and then Anna Universitymarker chairman announced that 50% reservation will be followed. His house was attacked.

69% Reservation was included in 9th Schedule.

K. M. Vijayan was brutally attacked and maimed while leaving to New Delhimarker to file case in Supreme Court against inclusion of 69% reservation in 9th Schedule

Supreme Court asked Tamil Nadu Government to exclude Creamy Layer from Reservation benefits.

May 2006 -August 2006
Anti Reservation Protests intensified in many parts of India.). Pro reservationists claim protests were intensified by media bias." Tamil Nadu stayed calm. This is attributed to low percentage of Forward castes in Tamil Nadu (13%) as against 36% in India.

Alternative systems of Affirmative Action proposed by academics Prof. Purushottam Agrawal of the Jawaharlal Nehru University in the form of the Multiple Index Related Affirmative Action (MIRAA) - and by Prof. Satish Deshpande and Dr. Yogendra Yadav of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies -

Dr. Sam Pitroda, Chairperson of the National Knowledge Commission [an advisory body instituted by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh] came out in opposition to the proposed scheme to extend caste-based reservations to OBCs in institutes of Higher Education (

Dr. Pratab Bhanu Mehta, member-convener of the National Knowledge Commission resigns from his post in protest against the policy of reservations [Dr. Mehta's open letter of resignation -].

Indian Prime Minister appoints Oversight committee headed by former chief minister of Karnataka M. Veerappa Moily to suggest ways for implementation of reservations for Other Backward Classes and to suggest measures for increasing seats in educational institutions.

Oversight committee submits interim report and suggests phased implementation of reservations in central educational institutions for other backward classes.[279697]

OBC reservation bill introduced in the Lok Sabha and referred to standing committee. It has not excluded creamy layer (rich and affluent amongst the other backward classes) from enjoying reservation benefits per supreme court judgement.[279698]

Supreme court referred inclusion of 69% reservation in Tamil Nadu in 9th schedule to 9 member bench

September 2006-2007
Supreme court advised Tamil Nadu to exclude creamy layer among Backward classes from enjoying reservation facilities.[279699]

Supreme court observed that central Government is trying to introduce quota without adequate data.

Oversight committee submits final report.

Supreme court upheld constitutional amendment for providing reservations in promotions for Scheduled castes and Tribes. It reiterated 50% limit and exclusion of Creamy layer from enjoying reservation benefits.[279700]

Parliamentary standing committee recommended preference for non creamy layer (Poor among backwards) among backward classes from enjoying reservation benefits and comprehensive population survey to identify real backward people.[279701]

Sachar committee submitted its report regarding backwardness of Indian Muslims. It made many recommendations for uplifting Indian Muslims. It indicated that current enrollment in educational institutions of non Muslim OBC's is almost equal to/close to their population. It also recommended alternative method identifying real needy people.[279702]

Union cabinet meeting rejected Parliamentary standing committee recommendations and decided to bring reservations bill by including creamy layer (Super rich) among other backward classes. Parliament passed OBC Reservations bill through voice vote.[279703]

AIIMS doctors started indefinite hunger strike protesting against reservations law.

April 2008
On 10 April 2008, the Supreme Court of Indiamarker upheld the law that provides for 27% reservation for Other Backward Castes (OBCs) in educational institutions supported by the Central government, while ruling that the creamy layer among the OBCs should be excluded from the quota.

Feb 2009
Mylapore constituency MLA S V Sekar demands 7% reservation for Brahmins. As of today, Brahmins are a forward community in TN.

Population data

**NFHS Survey estimated only Hindu OBC population.Total OBC population derived by assuming Muslim OBC population in same proportion as Hindu OBC population )

Only SC/ST population details are collected in Indian census. The SC/ST population is 24.4%.

Other Backward Classes
After 1931,caste data is not collected for non SC/ST caste-groups in census. Mandal commission estimated OBC population based on 1931 census as 52%.There is an ongoing controversy about the estimation logic used by Mandal commission for calculating OBC population. Famous psephologist and researcher, Dr. Yogendra Yadav of the CSDS [who is a known votary of Affirmative Action] agrees that there is no empirical basis to the Mandal figure. According to him "It is a mythical construct based on reducing the number of SC/ST, Muslims and others and then arriving at a number."

National Sample Survey's 1999-2000 (NSS 99-00) round estimated around 36 per cent of the country's population is defined as belonging to the Other Backward Classes (OBC). The proportion falls to 32 per cent on excluding Muslim OBCs. A survey conducted in 1998 by National Family Health Statistics (NFHS) puts the proportion of non-Muslim OBCs as 29.8 per cent..These surveys are considered as large by Oversight committee in its final report and by Dr. Yogendra Yadav. Oversight committee has used these surveys extensively in its final report.[279705] State population of backward classes in NSS 99-00 can be found in other section of this article.

Forward Castes
NSS 99-00

Many political and social leaders who supports reservations for the Other Backward classes like M Karunanidhi of the DMK, Dr.Udit Raj (President, Indian Justice Party) etc normally estimate "forward castes" population as anywhere between 5-15%.
[279706] This figure has hotly been disputed by such famous sociologists and commentators as Prof. Andre Beteille (Delhi School of Economics), Prof. Dipankar Gupta (Jawaharlal Nehru University), Prof. Satish Desphande (Delhi School of Economics), Dr Yogendra Yadav (CSDS) and Prof. Purushottam Agrawal (Jawaharlal Nehru University). National sample survey estimates "upper caste" population almost same as Backward classes at around 36%. Family health survey combined Forward castes population along with all communities of other religions. If one excludes Backward castes of other religions then it comes roughly around 38.6% which is more than Backward castes population.


There are several arguments provided both in support and in opposition to reservation. Some of the arguments on either side are often disputed by the other, while others are agreed upon by both sides, with a possible third solution proposed to accommodate both parties.

Arguments offered by supporters of reservation

  • Reservations are a political necessity in India because vast influential sections of voting population see reservations as beneficial to themselves. All governments have supported maintaining and/or increasing reservations. Reservations are legal and binding. As shown by Gujjar agitations (Rajasthan, 2007-2008), increasing reservations is also essential for peacekeeping in India.

  • Although Reservation schemes do undermine the quality of education but still affirmative Action schemes are in place in many countries including USAmarker, South Africa, Malaysiamarker, Brazilmarker etc. It was researched in Harvard Universitymarker that Affirmative Action programmes are beneficial to the under-privileged. The studies said that Blacks who enter elite institutions with lower test scores and grades than those of whites achieve notable success after graduation. They earn advanced degrees at rates identical to those of their white classmates. They are even slightly more likely than whites from the same institutions to obtain professional degrees in law, business and medicine. They become more active than their white classmates in civic and community activities.

  • Although Reservation schemes do undermine the quality of education but still Affirmative Action has helped many - if not everyone from under-privileged and/or under-represented communities to grow and occupy top positions in the world's leading industries. (See the Section on Tamil Nadu) Reservation in education is not THE solution, it is just one of the many solutions. Reservations is a means to increase representation of hitherto under-represented caste groups and thereby improve diversity on campus.

  • Although Reservation schemes do undermine the quality of education but still they are needed to provide social justice to the most marginalized and underprivileged is our duty and their human right. Reservation will really help these marginalized people to lead successful lives, thus eliminating caste-based discrimination which is still widely prevalent in India especially in the rural areas. (about 60% of Indian population stays in Villages)

  • Anti-reservationists have made a gross mix-up between brain-drain and reservation. Brain-drain is mainly attributed to the "want" to become more rich very fast. Even if we assume that reservation could be a fraction of the cause, one must understand that brain-drain is a concept which is meaningless without nationalism, which is separatism from humankind as a whole. If people leave the country whining about reservation, they don't have enough nationalism and brain-drain does not apply to them.

  • There concerns among anti-reservationists about meritrocracy and aptly so. But meritrocracy is meaningless without equality. First all people must be brought to the same level, whether it elevates a section or delevels another, regardless of merit. After that, we can talk about merit. Forward pople have never known to go backward due to reservations or lack of "meritrocracy". Reservations have only slowed down the process of "Forward becoming more richer and backward becoming more poorer". In China, people are equal by birth. In Japan, everyone is highly qualified, so a qualified man finishes his work fast and comes for labour work for which one gets paid more. So, instead of whining about reservation, the forward people must be at least happy with the fact that they are white-collared throughout their life.

Arguments offered by anti-reservationists

  • Intellectuals and Philanthropists agree that reservations will divide India . Reservation is similar to internal partition because in addition to being a form of ethnic discrimination, it also builds walls against inter-caste and inter-faith marriages. Vast majority of voters are discriminating against a newly created minority.

  • Reservations is the biggest enemy of meritocracy. By offering reservation through relaxed entry criteria, we are fueling inflation of moderate credentials as opposed to the promotion of merit based education system, which is the foundation of many progressive countries. Meritocracy should not be polluted by injecting relaxation of entry barriers, rather should be encouraged by offering financial aids to the underprivileged although deserving candidates only. Today the IITs and IIMs hold a high esteem in the global scenario due to their conservation of merit.

  • Caste Based Reservation only perpetuate the notion of caste in society, rather than weakening it as a factor of social consideration, as envisaged by the constitution. Reservation is a tool to meet narrow political ends.

  • Affirmative Action can be provided at a more comprehensive level taking into account various factors of exclusion such as caste, economic conditions, gender, kind of schooling received etc. A comprehensive scheme of Affirmative Action would be more beneficial than reservations in addressing concerns of social justice. Such a system was in place in the Jawaharlal Nehru University till 1983 [called the "Deprivation Points" system] and is used by both Universities and the industry in the USA.

  • There is great confusion in the "pro-reservation camp". While they clamour for 33% reservation for women in parliament and state legislatures [and do not accept caste quotas as part of women's quotas], they do not want special consideration for women in quotas in higher education. This is implicit acceptance of the fact that there are multiple factors of exclusion and discrimination at work in society.

  • The policy of reservation has never been subject to a widespread social or political audit. Before extending reservation to more groups, the entire policy needs to be properly examined, and its benefits over a span of nearly 60 years have to be gauged.

  • Providing quotas on the basis of an accident of birth and not on the basis of competitive merit will be discriminatory to talented students, and weaken the country's competitive edge.

  • Poor people from "forward castes" do not have any social or economical advantage over rich people from backward caste.

  • Combination of factors like Wealth, Income, Occupation etc will help to identify real needy people. Most often, only the economically sound people make use of most of the seats reserved for "backward" castes, thus making the aim a total failure.

  • There is fear that reservation once introduced will never be withdrawn even if there is a proof for upliftment of Backward classes, due to political issues. For example, in Tamil Nadumarker, forward castes were able to secure only 3% of total seats (and 9% in Open Competition) in professional institutions at Undergraduate level as against their population percentage of 13%.. This is a clear case of reverse discrimination.

  • Many cite the Mandal Commission report while supporting the idea of reservations. According to the Mandal commission, 52% of the Indians belong to OBC category, whle according to National Sample Survey 1999-2000, this figure is only 36% (32% excluding Muslim OBCs).

  • This policy of the government has already caused increase in brain drain [279707] and may aggravate further. Under graduates and graduates will start moving to foreign universities for higher education.

Other notable suggestions

The following policy changes have been suggested in order to find a solution to the problem. Some of these suggestions which transcend the pro- and anti-reservations debate have been analysed in Tarunabh Khaitan, ‘Transcending Reservations – A Paradigm Shift in the Debate on Equality’ Economic and Political Weekly (20 September 2008) 8.

Suggestions by Sachar Committee
  • Sachar Committee which has studied the backwardness of Indian Muslims have recommended following scheme for identifying real backward and needy people.[279708]

Marks based on Merit : 60

Marks based on Household Income (Irrespective of caste) : 13

Marks based on District in which person studied(Rural/Urban & Region : 13

Marks based on Family occupation and caste : 14

Total Marks : 100

The Sachar Committee has also indicated that OBC Hindus presence in educational institutions is almost equal to/close to their population.[279709]. Indian Human Resources Minister has immediately appointed a committee to study the Sachar Committee recommendations on Indian Muslims but did not offer any comments regarding the other suggestions.The anomaly that has been detected in this formula is that there can arise situations in which even the first ranker can be denied admission /appointment,which is clearly against the principles of natural justice

Suggestion by Centre for the Study of Developing Societies

  • It has been suggested that although caste is an important factor of exclusion at work in Indian society, other factors such as gender, economic conditions, geographical disparities and kind of schooling received cannot be altogether ignored. For example, a child studying in a village or municipal school does not enjoy the same status in society as another who has studied in an elite public school, caste notwithstanding. Some academics have argued that a better system of Affirmative Action would be one which seeks to address all the factors of exclusion at work in society which restrict a person's competitive abilities. Notable contributions in this regard have been made by Professor Purushottam Agrawal of the Jawaharlal Nehru University in the form of the Multiple Index Related Affirmative Action [MIRAA] system (see here: and by Dr. Yogendra Yadav and Dr. Satish Deshpande of the Centre for the Study Developing Societies [CSDS].

Suggestions from others

  • Reservation decisions has to be taken based on objective basis
  • Emphasis should be given to proper primary (and secondary) education so that groups under-represented in higher education institutes and workplaces become natural competitors.
  • The number of seats should be increased in the prestigious higher education institutes (such as IITs).
  • Government should announce long term plan to phase out reservations.
  • Government should promote inter-caste marriages in big way for abolition of caste system as initiated by Tamil Nadu.
This is because the basic defining characteristic of the Caste system is endogamy. It has been suggested that providing reservations to children born of inter-caste marriages will be a surer way of weakening the caste system in society.
  • Reservations should be based on economic status instead of caste-based-reservations (But the middle class who get salaries will suffer and all the landlords and business tycoons can enjoy the benefit)
  • People who are tax payers or children of tax payers should not be eligible for reservation. This is will ensure that benefits reach poorest of the poor and India will achieve social justice. The people opposed to this idea say that this will encourage people not to pay taxes and will be an injustice to those who pay taxes honestly.
  • Using IT the government must gather latest data on caste wise population, education attainment, occupational achievements, wealth etc. and present this information to the nation. Finally conduct a plebiscite on this issue to see what the people want. If there are significant differences what people want (as we can see in this wiki) then the government can have different castes take care of its own community by running their own educational institutions and providing employment opportunities without any government interference.

See also


External links

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