Recently, by a 3:2 decision, the Supreme Court upheld the validity of the 103rd constitutional amendment, which was implemented to give constitutional status to the Modi government’s decision to carve out 10% reservation for the economically weaker sections from unreserved classes for admission to educational institutions and government jobs. The court also held that the 50% quota ceiling is not inflexible and that affirmative action on the basis of economic status may go a long way toward ending caste-based reservation.
The amendment, which would raise the overall percentage of quota in central institutions to 59.50%, was adopted by a five-judge panel consisting of Chief Justice UU Lalit and Justices Dinesh Maheshwari, S Ravindra Bhat, Bela M Trivedi, and J B Pardiwala by a vote of 3:2.
All judges, however, concurred that, in light of the constitutional amendment, reservations based on economic status were justified. They also approved the amount of the quota, which exceeded the 50% cap that the SC had established in the Indra Sawhney case. In their dissenting opinion, CJI Lalit and Justice Bhat invalidated the amendment because it was “discriminatory and arbitrary” to exclude SC, ST, and OBC people from the definition of economic backwardness. Scroll down this post if you’re interested in learning more about the reservations system in India.
What do the terms “reservation” and “affirmative action” mean?
In India, reservation essentially refers to reserving seats for particular groups of the population in government jobs, educational institutions, and even legislatures.
The reservation, usually referred to as affirmative action, can be viewed as positive discrimination. India’s government has a policy of reservation, which is upheld by the Indian Constitution.
Why reservations are made in India?
According to the Indian Constitution, the two primary goals of reservation are:
Advancement of Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) or any Socially and Educationally underprivileged classes of citizens (Example: OBC) OR Economically underprivileged sections (EWS).
Adequate Representation of any underrepresented citizenry group OR economically disadvantaged sections (EWS) in state-run services. – Section 16(4) and Section 16 (6)
Root cause of reservation:
To some extent, the State pursues reservation as a strategy to make up for the historical injustice done to some castes by the so-called “upper castes.” Many “lower castes” in India were cut off from society due to the caste system, which hampered their development. The effects are still felt to a large extent.
Only a quota in legislatures was subject to reservation under India’s original constitution, and that provision only lasted for 10 years until 1960. The time duration for the quota in legislatures was expanded by further constitutional amendments.
Articles 15(4) and 16(4) of the Constitution, which address reservations in educational institutions and government employment, were later added. The reservations specified in articles 15(4) and 16 (4) are valid without a time limit.
Only SC and ST were initially excluded from the reservations [articles 15(4) and 16(4)]. In 1991, OBCs were brought under the purview of reservation [article 15(5)]. Articles 15(6) and 16(6), which refer to economically weaker sections, are also incorporated in 2019.
Scope of reservation in India:
Reservation is offered in India in-
IITs, IIMs, and other government educational institutions are covered by Article 15’s (4), (5), and (6). Government employment, including the IAS and IPS, is covered by Article 16’s (4) and (6). State and federal legislatures are covered by Article 334.
Prior to 2019, the reservation was granted based on socioeconomic and educational disadvantage (caste). But as of the 103rd constitutional amendment in 2019, economic weakness is now taken into account.
For different reservation categories, there are also extra relaxations offered in addition to the reserve quota, such as relaxations for older applicants, more chances, and lower cut-off scores.
No candidate other than a candidate who falls under the relevant category—SC, ST, or OBC—may fill a vacancy designated for one of those groups.
In India, around 60% of positions in the government and higher education institutions are reserved for various groups, including ST, SC, OBC, and EWS. A total of 3% of seats are set aside for people with disabilities in all categories.
Additionally, this indicates that just 40% of seats are merit-based. All candidates, including those from the general category, the SC, ST, OBC, and EWS, are eligible to apply for the merit seats.
Category wise reservation:
Reservation for SC/ST
The purpose of giving Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) reservations in services is not just to provide employment for select members of these communities. It primarily attempts to empower them and ensure their involvement in the State’s decision-making process.
Additionally, the state is eager to put an end to practises like untouchability.
Scheduled Castes (SC) are given a 15% quota in employment and higher education, while Schedule Tribes (ST) are given a 7.5% quota in employment and higher education.
For the SC/ST group, reservations are made not only for direct hiring but also for promotions (Article 16(4A)).
With regard to the SC/ST reservation, there is no such thing as a “creamy layer.” Children of SC/ST parents will receive SC/ST Reservation, regardless of their parents’ income level or their current government employment.
Reservation for OBCs
The Mandal Commission Report served as the foundation for the introduction of the OBC Reservation in 1991. In government employment and higher education, the OBC quota is 27%.
For the OBC reservation, there is a concept of a “creamy layer,” nevertheless. Only OBC people who fall under the Non-Creamy Layer are eligible for OBC reservations.
The creamy layer concept uses social class and income as criteria to cut off some of the more fortunate OBC members from the full scope of quota. This idea also acts as a check to make sure that the advantages of reserving are not passed on to other generations.
EWS Reservation EWS Reservation was recently made available by the Indian Government. Candidates from the Unreserved Category who belong to the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) are given a 10% quota for employment in government positions and educational institutions. This is accomplished by including relevant provisions in the Indian Constitution (103rd Constitution Amendment Act) 2019.