Reservation Policy of India

Reservation is a controversial and highly debatable topic in India. Furthermore, the main aim behind the reservation was the empowerment of the weaker sections of society. Reservation in its essence is a type of quota-based affirmative action. Reservation is a controversial and highly debatable topic in India. Furthermore, the main aim behind the reservation was the empowerment of the weaker sections of society. Reservation in its essence is a type of quota-based affirmative action. The constitution of India adopts the unique feature of reservation.

In the Hindu religion, the caste system divides people into four categories or varnas – Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and the Shudras. According to Hindu beliefs, these four varnas originated from Brahma, the creator of the Universe, Vedas, and people. The caste system is considered the distorted form of the Varna system. In the hierarchy of the caste system, Brahmins were on the top. They were supposed to originate from the head of Brahma.

The idea of reservation policy in India was originally developed by William Hunter and Jyotirao Phule in the year 1882. The basic principle behind the reservation was the Caste System and the malpractice of untouchability in India. But the prevailing reservation system in today’s India was introduced in 1933 by British Prime Minister Ramsay Macdonald in the form of the ‘Communal Award.

Under the provisions of the communal award, there were separate electorates for Europeans, Anglo-Indians, Indian Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, and the Dalits. But on 24th September 1932 when the Poona Pact agreement between Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Ambedkar was signed, it was decided that for Hindus there would be a single elective with certain reservations for the depressed classes in it.

When India got independence from British rule in 1947, the country was divided into two parts India and Pakistan. With the partition, much of the Muslim population migrated to Pakistan and Hinduism became the most prominent religion in India. So, when the constituent assembly was framing the Constitution of India, social discrimination based on the case system was a big hindrance to equality in society. So, the provision of reservation for the socially backward classes was introduced in the Constitution of India. Reservations were initially introduced for a period of 10 years and only for SCs and STs, but it kept on extending with several changes in it.

Reservation in Educational Institutions

In the year 2005, the government introduced the 93rd constitutional amendment act. With the enactment of the act, Article 15 (5) was inserted in the constitution of India. Article 15(5) provides that:
Nothing in this article or in sub-clause (g) of clause (1) of Article 19 shall prevent the State from making any special provision, by law, for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes or the Scheduled Tribes in so far as such special provisions relate to their admission to educational institutions including private educational institutions, whether aided or unaided by the State, other than the minority educational institutions referred to in clause (1) of Article 30.

Reservation in Promotion

Reservation for SCs and STs in matters of promotion in public employment was a matter of continuous conflict between the parliament and Apex Court. In 1992, in the case of Indra Sawhney v. Union of India,[iii] the Supreme Court held that Article 16(4) does not allow the reservation in promotion.

Against it, the parliament came with the 77th Constitutional Amendment Act, 1995, and inserted a new clause (4A) under Article 16, which empowers the state to make the provisions of reservation in the matter of promotion to SCs and STs in public employment.

Reservation to Economically Weaker Section

In the 103rd Constitutional Amendment Act, 2019 the new reservation was introduced by the legislature. This amendment introduced a 10% reservation for the economically weaker section of the society popularly known as EWS. It provides reservation to economically weaker sections (EWS) in public employment as well as admission in public and private educational institutions.

Before this amendment, there was a ceiling limit of 50% on reservations. In which, 22.5% of available seats were reserved for Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST) (7.5% for STs, 15% for SCs). In addition to this 27% of seats, were reservation was given to OBCs. The total reservation provided before the 103rd constitutional amendment was 49.5%, which was in conformity with the rule of 50% ceiling limit on the reservation.

Latest update on reservation

The Supreme Court on Friday is considering widening the ambit of its examination of a Haryana law granting 75% quota for locals in the private sector, to similar laws said to be prevalent in States such as Andhra Pradesh and Jharkhand.

A Bench led by Justice L. Nageswara Rao asked the Haryana government to submit details of cases on domicile quota laws pending in the High Courts of Andhra Pradesh and Jharkhand.

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