What is Reservation in Government Jobs?

Reservation Law Insider

Published on: August 10,2021 13:45 IST

By Stuti Hasmukh Oswal


The term reservation means to keep a number of seats for certain people in educational institutions, jobs, etc. These are mainly made to raise those people who have faced a setback due to the inequality inflicted upon them previously.

It is a type of a positive discrimination and for the betterment of the society. The reservations were mainly brought in for the Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribes community.

This article deals with the concept of reservation in Government Jobs in the Indian Constitution.

What happened recently in Maharashtra?

The Supreme Court rejected the Maharashtra State’s Reservation for Socially and Educationally Backward Class Act on 5th May 2021.

In the case of Dr. Jaishri Laxmanroa Patil Vs. The Chief Minister & Ors.[1] the court held that it was unconstitutional to increase the reservation beyond 50% ceiling limit as decided in the famous case of Indra Sawhney Vs. Union of India. It violates the right to equality and also there are no extraordinary situation present to increase such a limit.

The Judges were unanimous in regard to the three aspects which are:

  • It is not required to reconsider the 50% ceiling limit.
  • There are no exceptional circumstances to grant reservation above 50%.
  • The Gaikwad Commission and the Bombay High Court have failed to make out the case of extraordinary situation in the present case.

After the Supreme Court of India struck down the Maratha Reservation law the state government extended the EWS 10% quota to the Maratha Community

What is the history of reservation?

The reservation system is practiced since ages in the country in various forms. This system was followed from the times even before Mahabharat and is still there till date. The only difference is that now such reservations are to uplift the class of communities who are at disadvantage. Previously, few seats would be reserved for all the upper-class people only and the lower class were disregarded.

They were either looked down upon or considered untouchables. These divisions were made on the basis of gotra, jatis, etc. in Hindus.

The lower-class people were never given a chance in any way to make a difference. The cruelty imposed upon them had no bounds. Those who were treated as untouchables were not even allowed to reside in the village. Their shadows were considered as an evil omen.

The movement of positive reservation was initiated after enduring years of injustice by the lower classes and the untouchables. The Maharaj of Kolhapur Rajashi Shahu Maharaj took the initiative and brought in reservation in favour of non-brahmins and backward classes.

He also attempted to ensure that those educated in this manner were properly employed, and he advocated for both a classless India and the abolition of castes.

Later, Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar along with his colleagues introduced the reservation scheme and proposed that there shall be separate representation for the Muslims, Sikhs, etc. to which Mahatma Gandhi opposed initially. After several negotiation, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar and Mahatma Gandhi came to an agreement and signed the ‘Poona Pact.

Initially, reservations were only available to SCs and STs and later on the recommendation of the Mandal Commission the OBC’s were added.

Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar after the independence framed various policies on reservation in the Constitution favoring the SCs, STs and OBCs. These are as follows:

  • Article 15(4)- The State can make special provision for the advancement of SCs and STs.
  • Article 16(3)- Reservation of positions in government employment based on residence.
  • Article 16(4)- Reservation of the backward class for Government Jobs
  • Article 17- Abolition of Untouchability.
  • Article 39 A- Ensuring equal justice and provision of legal aid to the Backward class.
  • Article 45- Improve the living conditions and health of the underprivileged.
  • Articles 330 to 342 – Special provisions for reservations made for certain classes of people.

The Article 335 clearly states that such seats of reservation shall be given to people of those certain classes who are efficient and can bring in efficiency in the administration and not on the basis of the social standing.

Why is Reservation important?

Over the years people of the not so higher class had suffered inequality and ruthless behaviour from the so-called higher-class society. Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar once said that the Non-Brahmins must get highly educated and occupy the strategically important places, which has remained the monopoly of the Brahmins since long.” It was a fact that the other class of people were being disparaged.

Therefore, the farmers of the Constitution thought it was important to include various provisions for the benefit and growth of certain class of people.

These provision as you see now has helped the country abolish the untouchability rule as well as given so many people from such community a bright future which would have not been possible before.

Bringing in such provisions helped them to gain equal rights, opportunity and standard. The reservation provisions helped the people of such community and classes to keep pace with the other people. It help them to get a head start and learn so that they can be at par with the others.

Landmark Cases

  • Indra Sawhney Vs Union of India – The Mandal Case[2]

In this famous Judgement it was held that the reservation of 27% made by the Union Government in government jobs is constitutional and valid. It further stated that such reservation shall only be applicable to the initial appointment of the person for the job and not for the purpose of promotion.

The total reservation shall not exceed 50%. The said reservation shall exclude the creamy layer and stated 11 indicators to determine backwardness.

  • State of Madras Vs Smt. Champakan Dorairajan[3] – Reservation in Medical Colleges

In the above case the Madras Government issued G.O. with communal reservations in the medical colleges. The G.O. consisted of reservation of seats in accordance with the caste they belonged to.

The Supreme Court held that such a G.O. was unconstitutional and violated the Articles 15(1) and 29(2) of the Constitution which stated that the state is not allowed to discriminate any citizen against the caste, religion, sex, race or place of birth.

  • Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh Vs. Faculty Association[4] – Reservation for a particular post

In the above case reservation for a particular post was challenged. The Supreme Court of India held that there cannot be reservation for a particular post. If there is reservation of a particular post for caste and communities then such reservation shall amount to 100%. This kind of reservation is unconstitutional and hence this kind of reservation was struck down.

  • M. R. Balaji Vs Mysore[5] – Repetitive Reservation

The state of Mysore ordered repetitive reservation for all caste and communities except for Brahmins. The total of such reservation amounted to nearly 75%. The Supreme Court of India in the matter held that:

“Backwardness is a social and educational factor, both. Though caste in relation to Hindus may be a relevant factor to consider, in determining the social backwardness of a class of citizens, it cannot be made the sole and dominant test.”

  • Dr.Payal Tadvi Case[6]

Dr. Payal Tadvi was pursuing a course in Gynaecology and Obstertrics from Topiwala National Medical College, Mumbai. The police received an information on 22.05.2019 at around 9 pm that she had committed a suicide by hanging herself in her room.

The mother of the deceased told the police that she was constantly harassed by her seniors because she was from the Scheduled Case and Scheduled Tribes. A case was lodged against those who were involved in this.

  • Vipin Verma

In Ghaziabad, a 20-year-old law student named Vipin Verma committed suicide. His father Mr. Virendra Kumar lodged a complaint against a girl and three boys who were his son’s classmate. The four accused were harassing Vipin Verma because he was a Dalit.

The deceased had informed about the same to his mother who then told her husband. Mr. Virendra Kumar called the group to resolve the issue and asked them to stop harassing his son. He also told them to focus on studies but to his utter dismay that evening itself his son committed a suicide. The case has been registered by the police and is still left to be decided.


In an interview the grandson of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar namely Prakash Ambedkar said that “Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar had envisaged reservation for SC/STs in Lok Sabha and state assembly constituencies for just 10 years.”

The ideology with which the reservations were made was not understood well. It has been years that the reservation system is still there.

People suggest that the reservation system is not a prejudice system but it should be instated only for those who are actually poor and backward and that the reservations shall not be based on castes and communities.

The Reservations policies brought in should be with the idea to improve the society and not to gain personal profits. It should not be a stepping stone for collection majority in elections for the party.

The reservation system should only be for the ones in dire need of support and help. Otherwise, everyone would try entering the said system even if they do not require the facilities provided by it.


  1. Dr. Jaishri Laxmanroa Patil Vs. The Chief Minister & Ors. S.L.P. (C) No. 15737 of 2019
  2. Indra Sawhney Vs. Union of India AIR 1993 SC 477
  3. State of Madras Vs. Smt. Champakan Dorairajan AIR 1951 SC 226
  4. Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh Vs. Faculty Association AIR 1998 SC 1767
  5. M. R. Balaji Vs. Mysore AIR 1963 SC 649

  6. Ankita Kailash Khandelwal and Ors. vs. State of Maharashtra and Ors. (08.10.2020 – SC) : MANU/SC/0744/2020

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