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Reservation was introduced to uplift the deprived sections of society. The main objective of the reservation is to ensure that equal and fair opportunities are provided to all the people. The provisions of reservation in respect of public employment as well as promotion have been specified in Article 16 and thereunder clauses particularly Article 16(4) and 16(4A). The central aim of the constitution is “to secure to all citizens equality of status and opportunity and to promote among them all fraternity assuring the dignity of the individual and the nation.”[1] Initially, the reservation policy was limited only to Scheduled Tribes & Scheduled Castes. However, with time, reservation has also been extended to Other Backward Castes (OBC), and Economically Weaker Sections (EWS). Reservations are pertinent for the communities that are stepping into the educational and employment mainstreams.[2]  At one time, the majority of the people were deprived of education by mere reason of caste and race thereby resulting in unemployment due to illiteracy. The primary concern of the government in respect of reservation is therefore always to safeguard those people from injustice owing to caste-based discrimination. Thus, the key elements of the reservation policy are to promote equality by way of providing fair opportunities and reassurance to the underprivileged sections of society with proper employment, and education.


The Mandal Commission was set up in 1979 by the Morarji Desai Government under the chairmanship of B.P Mandal. The main aim of this commission was to track down socially and economically backward classes and to provide reservation as a means to voice against inequality and caste-based discrimination and raise awareness of the same. The Kala Kalelkar Commission also known as the First Backward Commission set up in 1953 was the first to give rise to the socially and educationally backward classes in pursuance of Article 340. However, the commission turned out to be unsuccessful because it had failed to achieve the most principal objectives.[3] So, the need for a second Backward Commission, also known as Mandal Commission arose. Upon the recommendations made by the Mandal Commission, reservation has been further extended to OBCs which was earlier granted only to ST, and SC categories. The report of the commission in which it was mentioned that about 52% of the population belongs to OBC of the total population of India.[4] As the government was highly concerned about the equality, a decade later, implemented the recommendation by way of providing 27% reservation for OBC alongside the existing 22.5% reservation for both ST and SCs thereby taking it below 50% in total so that the right to equality enshrined under the part III  of the constitution of India would remain secure.[5] However, certain states are facing legal consequences for exceeding the reservation cap of 50%. On the other hand, the Rajasthan Government took a step to implement reservation that is over the 50% limit including 14% for forward castes in terms of services and education.[6] In the Indira Sawney case,[7] which is popularly known as Indira Sawhney Judgement or Mandal case, a bench comprising of nine judges presided by Chief Justice M H Kania, upheld the 27% reservation provided for the OBC and asserted that reservation for the category cannot be merely based on caste. Further, the court directed for dividing the backward classes into creamy and non-creamy layers and for keeping the creamy layer out of the reservation.


It is well-established law that the right to reservation is not a fundamental right hence, an individual cannot approach the Supreme Court under article 32 in violation of the same. It has been made clear that reservation is not a constitutional right in a few prominent cases. In the recent case of Mukesh Kumar and Another v. State of Uttarakhand & Ors,[8] the Supreme Court ruled that states are not duty-bound to provide reservation or promotion in pursuance of Article 16(4) or Article 16(4A) of the constitution as the right to claim reservation is not a fundamental right, rather they are enabling provisions which are laid down to provide reservation when circumstances so warrant. A bench comprising of five judges in the case of C.A. Rajendran v. Union of India[9] held that it is not obligatory for the Government to provide reservation for the weaker sections of society because there is no constitutional duty on the part of the Government concerning reservation or promotion. A similar judgment has been passed in the case of Ajit Singh v. the State of Punjab,[10] that Article 16(4) and Article 16(4A) are brought in the nature of enabling provisions conferred on the state to consider providing reservation therefore, the right to reservation is neither a fundamental right nor a constitutional duty.


M.R Balaji and Ors v. State of Mysore[11]

This case was brought before the Hon’ble Supreme Court with regard to the amendment of Article 15(4) and to clear the question as to the limitation of the reservation. In the judgment, a bench comprising of ten judges declared that the reservation shall not exceed 50%. The bench has also held that reservation cannot be based on the sole criteria of caste, rather it shall consider other factors aside from caste.

Nagaraj v. Union of India[12]

This is an important case that deals with a significant matter of providing reservations in the promotion.  A constitutional bench directed the government to collect “quantifiable data showing backwardness of the class and inadequacy of representation of that class in the public employment.The court has further held that those who are socially, educationally, and economically well off among scheduled tribes and scheduled castes fall within the ambit of the creamy layer and shall be excluded from the reservation.

Jarnail Singh v. Lacchmi Narain Gupta[13]

In this case, a petition was filed to review the judgment passed in the M. Nagaraj case in respect of the reservation in promotion. Few contentions were raised before the court as a result, examination of the given verdict was deemed to be necessary. After the review, the court struck down the condition to collect the quantifiable data in respect of public employment however, upheld the application of the creamy layer regarding the ST, SC.

Dr. Jaishri Laxmanrao Patil v. Chief Minister& Ors[14]

This case is about the reservation provided to the Maratha Community which exceeded the limit of 50%. The court held that the Maratha Quota is unconstitutional as it has violated Article 14 & Article 16 of the constitution of India. The court invalidated the Maratha quota law as a result of exceeding the 50% bar which was fixed in the Indira Sawhney verdict in the year 1992.


The evolution of reservations in India dates back to the pre-Independence period. Although there have been problems and debates over the reservation, this policy has played a major role in uplifting the underprivileged section of society. Having considered the kind of discrimination and difficulties faced by similar communities in the past, reservation has become appropriate to maintain and ensure equality in the nation so that the weaker section of people would not be pushed backward in the name of discrimination and inequality. With the arrival of the Mandal commission, reservation further got extended to the OBC category which has molded the backward classes. Mostly, the reservation was provided to the underrepresented people based on caste criteria. However, there are various other aspects that the concerned states are required to examine such as the standard of life, lack of basic needs, poverty, etc to identify the needy people. Since there exist quite a few problems concerning the reservation, the government should consider solving the frequent issues and take appropriate steps accordingly.

Author(s) Name: Priya A


[1]The Constitution of India, 1950

[2]Cynthia Stephen, ‘The History of Reservations in India from the 1800s to the 1950s’ (2006) 10 (2)<>accessed on June 3, 2022

[3]Akshay Ratan, ‘Mandal Commission Persistence of Caste Identities and Reservation in India’ ( ResearchGate, 23  April 2014)<> accessed on June 4, 2022

[4]Dr. Ashish Singal, Ekramuddin, Jamsheed Ansari, ‘A Study on the Issues of Reservation Policies in India’ (2019) 6 (4) IRJECT 5<> accessed on June 5, 2022

[5]Abhilash M.R. ‘Reservation in Public Employment’(The Hindu)(30 May 2022) 08

[6]S. Yesu Suresh Raj,P.Gokulraj, ‘An Analysis of Reservations System in India’ (2015) 2 (10) IJR5 <> accessed on June 5, 2022

[7]Indira Sawhney v Union of India and Others 1992, AIR 1993, SC 477

[8]Mukesh Kumar and Another v State of Uttarakhand and Others (2020), Appeal (Civil) No. 1226/2020

[9]C.A. Rajendran v Union of India & Others1968AIR 507, 1968 SCR (1) 721

[10]Ajit Singh v State of Punjab1967 AIR 856, 1967 SCR (2) 143

[11]M.R Balaji & Others v State of Mysore 1963 AIR 649,1962 SCR Supl. (1) 439

[12]M Nagaraj & Others v Union of India & Others (2006) 8 SCC 212

[13]Jarnail Singh v Lacchmi Narain Gupta Appeal (Civil) No. 629/2022

[14]Jaishri Laxmanrao Patil v The Chief Minister & Others Appeal (Civil) No. 3123/2020