Reservation is a kind of process and procedure to provide facilities to the persons belonging to the weaker sections of the societies in the areas like education, jobs, promotions and in other areas in which they are not being represented properly. It is provided by the constitution and also through other enactments passed by the legislation and competent authority. In general, it is being implemented in the form of “Quota system” which is meant for the persons belonging to the reserved category. Reservation has been made to uplift the persons belonging from economically and socially weaker section.The Government changes time to time the criteria of the reservation. Reservation is governed by constitutional laws, statutory laws, and local rules and regulations.




In India, the reservation is being provided by the Government on the following basis:


Caste:- Reservation is being provided to some castes whose economic conditions are very poor. Apart from it the reservation is being also provided to those persons belonging from the socially weaker caste. The principal category of castes includes Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe. Also there is one more category called as OBC which is not the principal category but has received the advantages of reservation.


  • Religion:- In few states like Andhra Pradesh, Kerala there is provision for reservation on the basis of religion.
  • Domicile:-  In some states in few areas posts are reserved for the omicile of that state.
  • Gender:-  For women few seats are reserved in some of areas in some of the State services.


Reservation is a form of affirmative action whereby certain percentage of seats are reserved in Parliament, State Legislative Assembly, Central and State Services, Public Sector Units and in all Public and Private Educational Institutions except in the Minority and Religious Educational.


Institutions for the people who are belonging from socially and educationally backward classes or  from the category declared as reserved category. The Reservation policy in India is centered around the Constitutional framework for reservation. The Constitution of India provides three types of reservations i.e. Political, Educational and Employment. The percentage for the reservation has been fixed by the Government for these three categories.




India was a country having highly rigid caste-based social structure, with ascending order of privileges and descending order of disabilities, which operated for about 3000 years. There was an overwhelming majority in the nation that was still backward – socially, economically, educationally and politically. These victims of entrenched backwardness comprise the present scheduled castes (SC), scheduled tribes (ST) and other backward classes (OBC). Even though, these classes are generically the “Backward Classes,” the nature and magnitude of their backwardness are not the same. After achieving independence from the British Emperor in the year, 1947, India became a democratic and egalitarian nation. It was imperative at that point to establish a code for the political, economical and social structure.


For achieving the goal of development of the nation Constitution of India was framed by the framer of the Constitution of India in the name of “ By the people, for the people and of the people”, in the year,1950. In the Constitution, special provisions were enacted to achieve a dynamic, democratic and egalitarian society. The policy for the development of the nation, the Constitution framers chose was “Reservation.” It is in this backdrop we will understand the historical development of the policy of Reservation in India from its origin to the modern time.


The reservations were, therefore, to be exceptions to the general rule. Moreover, the provisions by which these were allowed were crafted carefully to be just enabling provisions. They were worded to confer no more than a discretionary power on the State. They did not cast a duty on the State to the effect that it must set apart such and thus proportion of seats in educational institutions or of posts in government services on the basis of birth. The provisions were written so as to obviate a challenge to the steps that the State may take to raise the downtrodden. They were not to confer a right on anyone. And the whole scheme was to be a temporary affair, a scheme made necessary by the circumstances of the moment




The Constitution of India, through its provisions, provides way of reservation. The basic approach was specified in Articles 14, 15(1), 16(1) and 16(2). Article 14 guaranteed equality to all: “The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.” That was the fundamental guarantee.


Article 15(1) made that guarantee specific in one particular:” The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.”


Article 15(2) guaranteed equal access for everyone to public facilities like wells, restaurants etc.


Article 15(3) contained a proviso: it is important as it recalls the only categories for which the framers were prepared to countenance curtailment of equal provisions. Article 15(3) provided:


Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any special provision for women and children.”


Notice again: the only categories for which special provisions were envisaged were women and children. In particular, notice that no exceptions were envisaged on the basis of castes.


Article 16(1) made the fundamental guarantee of equality contained in Article 14 specific in another particular, one that was particularly important in those days when job opportunities were much more restricted than they are today, and governmental jobs were looked up to much more than is the case now. “There shall be equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the State.” Article 16(2) did for governmental employment what Article 15(1) did for a citizen’s living in general: “No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, residence or any of them, be ineligible for, or discriminated against in respect of, any employment or office under the State.”


Article 16(4) contained a proviso, and again it is important as a reminder of what the framers of the Constitution envisaged. This clause provided: “Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any provision for the reservation of appointments or posts in favour of any backward  class of citizens which, in the opinion of the State, is not adequately represented in the services under the State.


Therefore to sum up what the Constitutional framers provided we may say: (a) The fundamental guarantee in every provision was of equality, of non-discrimination. (b) Caste was most consciously eschewed: the proviso to Article 15(1) spoke only of women and children ; Article 16(4) spoke only of “any backward class of citizens.” (c) Where caste was mentioned, it was only to prohibit discrimination on grounds of caste. (d) Where ‘equality’ was made specific – in Article 16(1) in regard to employment under the State, for instance – the expression that was used was ‘equality of opportunity’, an expression that, has been buried deep under the rhetorical flourishes of progressives.


Also the Constitutional framers deliberately omitted word religion under Article 29, and also under Article 46 weaker sections are to be promoted by State with special care to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Finally the Constitutional framers kept the provision of reservation under the strict scrutiny of Article 335. Article 335 provided, “The claims of members of Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes shall be taken into consideration, consistently with the maintenance of efficiency of administration, in the making of appointments to services and posts in connection with the affairs of the Union or of the State.”




After the ending of the era of the politician and statesman of the stature of Pandit Nehru, Sardar Patel and other such kind of politicians from the political scene of India, the politicians with little worth came into picture who were not having the deep root in the heart of all sections of the people of India occupied the scene. The politicians were not commanding the patronage of masses because of their ideal or policies and thus they started to widen the gulf on the basis on caste. They started the policy of caste appeasement and thus tried to vow their supporters not by development but by appeasing them and giving them the carrot of reservation. This degradation started very early but its signs were seen after the Mandal Commission recommendations were implemented by the then government of Mr. V. P. Singh, th3e then Prime Minister of India. Mandal Commission was given the duty to identify backward classes and to examine the desirability or otherwise of making provision for reservations of appointments or tests in public services and in this way a new age of reservation was started. And on such basis the reservation for OBC was fixed at 27% on the basis of the recommendation made by Mandal commission. The politicians because of vote bank politics and political pressure started adding more and more castes watch castes, within the framework of reservation forgetting the constitutional mandate that it is the backward classes that is to be protected not the castes. They done all the exercises only with the intention to divide and rule which was used by the Britishers in  India prior to independence.




Provisions regarding reservation was challenged by several persons in the Hon’ble Court and court has also given views on this point.


From M.R. Balaji to Indra Sawhney the Supreme Court held that clause 16(4) was an exception to the fundamental guarantee provided to all citizens that they shall have equality of opportunity in competing for governmental employment. The court held, as Dr. Ambedkar had stated in this very context during debates of the Constituent Assembly, that an exception cannot be allowed to swallow the rule. Hence the Court held, speaking generally, reservations should not exceed 50% of the jobs being filled. Tamil Nadu crossed this margin and gave 69% reservations which was declared unconstitutional by Madras High Court. Government went to Supreme Court but to no avail. Then Tamil Nadu Assembly unanimously passed a resolution requesting Central Government to intervene. Then on 13th July, 1994 all party meeting in Delhi was held and it was decided that Tamil Nadu will pass a bill for enabling such reservation and that bill will be placed in Ninth Schedule of the Constitution.


Another controversy was over the reservations in promotion. In Indra Sawhney, the Supreme Court held that reservations can be given only one time and there will be no reservations in promotion. But this again was undone by Parliament by amending constitution 77th time and enacting a new clause Art. 16(4A) for giving reservation in promotions.


Then the problem arose that the vacancies of reserved categories when carried over exceed the ceiling of 50%. So Constitution was amended 81st time and a clause (4B) was inserted in Article 16. Which stated that the vacancies carried forward and vacancies afresh shall not be considered together.


In S. Vinod Kumar v. Union of India, Supreme Court held that under the light of Article 335 efficiency of administration has to be maintained and standards could not be relaxed or waived to afford the protection of reservation. This made the Constitution to be amended 82nd time and a new proviso was inserted under Article 335 that standards can be relaxed to accommodate reservation.


Now the question came before court for consequential seniority. The rule was followed that a reserved candidate may be promoted on the basis of roster system prior to a general candidate, but as the general candidate is promoted he supercedes the reserved candidate who was his junior initially but was promoted earlier than him because of reservation policy, and the status quo that existed prior to promotion of reserved candidate will be maintained in terms of seniority. This made the constitution to be amended 85th time and in clause (4A) of Article 16 terms with consequential seniority were added.


This shows that the politicians have kept the merit on back burner and started giving priorities to reservation on the basis of caste which is dividing the entire country and is against the very principle for what the constitutional framers had kept this principle of reservation.




The questions arise: are there better options than reservations or quotas in jobs and higher education? Don’t these measures encourage the beneficiaries of affirmative action to designate themselves as members belonging to preferred groups? Don’t these measures make those sections of society that historically have been discriminated against feel that they have been elevated due to preferential treatment or positive discrimination on the basis of group allegiance rather than individual merit? Won’t the poor upper caste people suffer due to reverse discrimination in favour of affluent well–to-do lower castes in India? Won’t they make the beneficiaries of the affirmative action lethargic or complacent? Won’t the upper caste people who are more productive and competent are loosing their hope or migrating from country? If the students coming from a backward class were to know in advance that they would be accepted by higher education institutions or jobs under the reserved category or preferential treatment, would they still strive hard to perform their best? Won’t it aggravate further animosity if, despite reservation and preferential treatment, such students find students from the general category outperforming them? Affirmative action in the name of race, caste or minority can have deeper psychological scars on the groups, according to who receives preferential treatment and who does not. Moreover, affirmative action in the name of diversity, has an ameliorating effect on both groups, preferred as well as non-preferred. Like mercy, it is “doubly blessed”. It leads to less passion and resentment. It gives due weight to students’ potential capabilities along with their realized capabilities reflected in high grades and scores on the basis of final examinations or common entrance tests. Under the new measures, once admitted, the costs of poor performance are borne to a greater extent by the beneficiaries of affirmative action themselves and to a lesser extent by others. Enhancing access, equity and diversity in higher education does not mean that all must be treated as equal or exactly the same. Nor does it imply equal or proportional representation in all areas of jobs, higher education and institutional operations. It simply implies being systematically fair. Consideration for all on an equal footing requires that inequities, when they occur, should be justified by overall benefit and gains to all concerned and that they should be in the public interest. Some alternatives to affirmative action should also be devised to strike a balance between equity and equality, on the one hand, and individual gain and public accountability, on the other hand.




Lookingh the present scenario like recent agitation of Jats in Haryana and Patels in Gujarat demanding for Other Backward Class(OBC)reservation and tremendous pressure from Gujjars in Rajsthan for ST status, requires a relook of the caste based reservation policy in India. Reservation policy has emanated many controversies, discussions, and riots type agitations in India. Some are in favour of and others are against the policy. The antagonists argued that the policy, especially the caste-based reservation cannot improve the condition of poor masses in the country. They further argued that the policy contradicts the principle of secularism rather than uplifting the weaker communities in the country.


After observing the above facts it is clear that the policy of reservation in India is not a successful policy rather it is affecting badly the social and economical condition of India which is drawing back to our nation.