without reservation

Reservation in India

Reservation in Indian law is a form of affirmative action whereby a percentage of seats are reserved in the public sector units, union and state civil services, union and state government departments and in all public and private educational institutions, except in the religious/ linguistic minority educational institutions, for the socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or the Scheduled Castes and Tribes who were inadequately represented in these services and institutions. The reservation policy is extended for the SC and STs in representing the Parliament of , etc. The central government of India reserves 27% of higher education, Reservation in most states is capped at a maximum of 50%, but certain Indian states like [[Rajasthan have proposed a 68 % reservation which ironically includes a 14% reservation for forward castes


Reservations are intended to increase the social diversity in campuses and workplaces by lowering the entry criteria for certain identifiable groups that are grossly under-represented in proportion to their numbers in the general population. Caste is the most used criteria to identify under-represented groups. However there are other identifiable criteria for under-representation -- gender (women are under represented), state of domicile (North Eastern States, as Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are under-represented), rural people, etc. -- as revealed by the Government of India sponsored National Family Health and National Sample surveys. The underlying theory is that the under-representation of the identifiable groups is a legacy of the Indian caste system. After India gained independence, the Constitution of India listed some erstwhile groups as Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST). The framers of the Constitution believed that, due to the caste system, SCs and the STs were historically oppressed and denied respect and equal opportunity in Indian society and were thus under-represented in nation-building activities. The Constitution laid down 15% and 7.5% of vacancies to government aided educational institutes and for jobs in the government/public sector, as reserved quota for the SC and ST candidates respectively for a period of five years, after which the situation was to be reviewed. This period was routinely extended by the following governments and the Indian Parliament, and no revisions were undertaken for the fear of losing votes (It is a well known fact that the so-called backward communities are active in politics and their people vote; unfortunately, the majority of highly educated Indians do not vote during the general elections).

Later, reservations were introduced for other sections as well. The Supreme Court ruling that reservations cannot exceed 50% (which it judged would violate equal access guaranteed by the Constitution) has put a cap on reservations. However, there are state laws that exceed this 50% limit and these are under litigation in the Supreme Court. For example, the caste-based reservation fraction stands at 69% and is applicable to about 87% of the population in the state of Tamil Nadu (see section on Tamil Nadu below).

History of the practice

India is divided into many endogamous groups, or castes and sub-castes, as a result of centuries of practicing a form of social hierarchy called the caste system. Proponents of reservation policy says that the traditional caste system, as it is practised, leads to severe oppression and segregation of the lower castes and limited their access to various freedoms, including education. Caste, according to ancient scriptures such as "Manu Smriti", is "Varnasrama Dharma", which translates to "offices given according to colour". The practice of caste in India followed this rule.

  • 1882 - Hunter Commission appointed. Mahatma Jyotirao Phule made a demand of free and compulsory education for all along with proportionate reservation/representation in government jobs.
  • 1891-The demand for reservation of government jobs was made as early as 1891 with an agitation in the princely State of Travancore against the recruitment of non-natives into public service overlooking qualified native people.
  • 1901-Reservations were introduced in Maharashtra in the Princely State of Kolhapur by Shahu Maharaj. Reservations in the princely states of Baroda and Mysore were already in force.
  • 1908-Reservations were introduced in favour of a number of castes and communities that had little share in the administration by the British.
  • 1909- Provisions were made in the Government of India Act 1909
  • 1919- Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms introduced.
  • 1919 - Provisions were made in the Government of India Act 1919
  • 1921-Madras Presidency introduces Communal G O in which reservation of 44 per cent for non-Brahmins, 16 per cent for Brahmins, 16 per cent for Muslims, 16 per cent for Anglo-Indians/ Christians and eight per cent for Scheduled Castes.
  • 1935-Indian national congress passes resolution called Poona Pact to allocate separate electoral constituencies for depressed classes.
  • 1935 - Provisions in Government of India Act 1935.
  • 1942-B.R.Ambedkar established the All India Depressed Classes federation to support the advancement of the scheduled castes. He also demanded reservations for the Scheduled castes in government services and education.
  • 1946- Cabinet Mission proposes proportionate representation with several other recommendations.
  • 1947-India obtained Independence. Dr. Ambedkar was appointed chairman of the drafting committee for Indian Constitution. The Indian constitution prohibits discrimination on the grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex and place of birth . While providing equality of opportunity for all citizens, the constitution contains special clauses "for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes". Separate constituencies allocated to Scheduled Castes and Tribes to ensure their political representation for 10 years.(These were subsequently extended for every 10 years through constitutional amendments).
  • 1947-1950- Debates of the Constituent Assembly.
  • 26/01/1950-The Constitution of India came in force.
  • 1953-Kalelkar Commission was established to assess the situation of the socially and educationally backward class. The report was accepted as far as Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes were concerned. The recommendations for OBC's were rejected.
  • 1956-Schedules amended as per Kaka Kalelkar report.
  • 1976-Schedules amended.
  • 1979-Mandal Commission was established to assess the situation of the socially and educationally backward. The commission didn't have exact figures for a sub-caste, known as the Other Backward Class(OBC), and used the 1930 census data, further classifying 1,257 communities as backward, to estimate the OBC population at 52%.
  • 1980-the commission submitted a report, and recommended changes to the existing quotas, increasing them from 22% to 49.5%.As of 2006 number of castes in Backward class list went up to 2297 which is the increase of 60% from community list prepared by Mandal commission.
  • 1990-Mandal commission recommendations were implemented in Government Jobs. Student Organisations launched nationwide agitations. Rajiv Goswami Delhi university student attempted self-immolation. Many students followed suit.
  • 1991-Narasimha rao Government introduced 10% separate reservation for Poor Among Forward Castes.
  • 1992-Supreme court upheld reservations to Other backward classes in Indira Sawhney Case. Also see Reservations and Judiciary section
  • 1995-Parliament by 77th Constitutional amendment inserted Art 16(4) (A) permitting reservation in promotions to the Schedule Castes and Schedule Tribes. Later it was further amended to include consequential seniority by 85th amendment.
  • 1998-Central Government conducted large nationwide survey for the first time to estimate economical and educational status of various social groups.. The National Sample Survey puts the figure at 32% There is substantial debate over the exact number of OBC's in India, with census data compromised by partisan politics. It is generally estimated to be sizable, but lower than the figures quoted by either the Mandal Commission or and national Sample Survey Mandal commission has been criticised of fabricating the data. National surveys indicated that status of OBC is comparable to Forward castes in many areas.
  • 2005 August 12 - The Supreme Court delivered an unanimous judgement by 7 judges on August 12, 2005 in the case of P.A. Inamdar & Ors. vs. State of Maharashtra & Ors.declaring that the State can't impose its reservation policy on minority and non-minority unaided private colleges, including professional colleges.
  • 2005-93rd Constitutional amendment brought for ensuring reservations to other backward classes and Scheduled castes and Tribes in Private Educational institutions. This effectively reversed the 2005 August Supreme Court judgement.
  • 2006-The Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in M.Nagraj & Ors Vs. Union of India & Ors upheld the constitutional validity of Art 16(4) (A), 16(4) (B) and proviso to Art 335.
  • 2006-Reservations introduced for Other backward classes in Central Government Educational Institutions. Total Reservation went up to 49.5%. Also See Recent Development.
  • 2007-Supreme Court give stayed on OBC reservation in Central Government Educational Institutions.
  • 2008—The Supreme Court of India on April 10 2008, upheld the Government's move for initiating 27% OBC quotas in Government funded institutions. The Court has categorically reiterated its prior stand that "Creamy Layer" should be excluded from the ambit of reservation policy. The Supreme Court avoided answering the question whether reservations can be made in private institutions, stating that the question will be decided only as and when a law is made making reservations in private institutions. The verdict produced mixed reactions from supporting and opposing quarters.

Several criteria to identify creamy layer has been recommended, which are as follows:

Those with family income above Rs 250,000 a year should be in creamy layer, and excluded from the reservation quota. Also, children of doctors, engineers, chartered accountants, actors, consultants, media professionals, writers, bureaucrats, defence officers of colonel and equivalent rank or higher, high court and Supreme Court judges, all central and state government Class A and B officials. The court has requested Parliament to exclude MPs’ and MLAs’ children, too.

Reservations and Judiciary

Indian Judiciary has pronounced some Judgments upholding reservations and some judgments for fine tuning its implementations. Lot of judgments regarding reservations have been modified subsequently by Indian parliament through constitutional amendments. Some judgments of Indian judiciary has been flouted by state and central Governments. Given below are the major judgments given by Indian courts and its implementation status:

Year Judgement Implementation Details
1951 Court has pronounced that caste based reservations as per Communal Award violates Article 15(1). (State of Madras Vs. Smt. Champakam Dorairanjan AIR 1951 SC 226) 1st constitutional amendment (Art. 15 (4)) introduced to make judgement invalid.
1963 Court has put 50% cap on reservations in M R Balaji v Mysore AIR 1963 SC 649 Almost all states except Tamil Nadu (69%, Under 9th schedule) and Rajasthan (68% quota including 14% for forward castes, post gujjar violence 2008) has not exceeded 50% limit. Tamil Nadu exceeded limit in 1980. Andhra Pradesh tried to exceed limit in 2005 which was again stalled by high court.
1992 Supreme court in Indira Sawhney & Ors v. Union of India. AIR 1993 SC 477 : 1992 Supp (3)SCC 217 upheld Implementation of separate reservation for other backward classes in central government jobs. Judgement implemented
Ordered to exclude Creamy layer of other backward classes from enjoying reservation facilities. All states except Tamil Nadu implemented. Recent Reservation bill for providing reservations to other backward classes in educational institutions also has not excluded Creamy layer in some states. (Still under the consideration of Standing committee).
Ordered to restrict reservations within 50% limit. All states except Tamil Nadu followed.
Declared separate reservations for economically poor among forward castes as invalid. Judgement implemented
In General Manager, S. Rly. v. Rangachari AIR 1962 SC 36, State of Punjab v. Hiralal 1970(3) SCC 567, Akhil Bharatiya Soshit Karamchari Sangh (Railway) v. Union of India (1981) 1 SCC 246 it was held that Reservation of appointments or posts under Article 16(4) included promotions. This was overruled in Indira Sawhney & Ors v. Union of India. AIR 1993 SC 477 : 1992 Supp (3) SCC 217 and held that Reservations cannot be applied in promotions. Ajitsingh Januja & Ors Vs State of Punjab & Ors AIR 1999 SC 3471, Union of India Vs Varpal Singh AIR 1996 SC 448, Ajitsingh Januja & Ors Vs State of Punjab AIR 1996 SC 1189, R K Sabharwal Vs St of Punjab AIR 1995 SC 1371 : (1995) 2 SCC 745. 77th Constitution amendment (Art 16(4 A) & (16 4B) introduced to make judgement as invalid. Nagraj & Ors v. Union of India and Ors. AIR 2007 SC 71 held the amendments constitutional.
1994 Supreme court advised Tamilnadu to follow 50% limit Tamilnadu Reservations put under 9th Schedule of the constitution. I.R. Coelho (Dead) by LRS. Vs. State of T.N. 2007 (2) SCC 1 : 2007 AIR(SC) 861 Held, Ninth Schedule law has already been upheld by the court, it would not be open to challenge such law again on the principles declared by this judgment. However, if a law held to be violative of any rights in Part III is subsequently incorporated in the Ninth Schedule after 24th April, 1973, such a violation/infraction shall be open to challenge on the ground that it destroys or damages the basic structure as indicated in Article 21 read with Article 14, Article 19 and the principles underlying thereunder. Action taken and the transctions finalized as a result of the impugned Acts shall not be open to challenge.
2005 In Unni Krishnan, J.P. & Ors. Vs. State of Andhra Pradesh & Ors. (1993 (1) SCC 645), it was held that right to establish educational institutions can neither be a trade or business nor can it be a profession within the meaning of Article 19(1)(g). This was overruled in T.M.A.Pai Foundation v. State of Karnataka (2002) 8 SCC 481, P.A.Inamdar v. State of Maharashtra 2005 AIR(SC) 3226 Supreme court ruled that reservations cannot be enforced on Private Unaided educational institutions. 93rd constitutional amendment introduced Art 15(5). Ashoka Kumar Thakur vs. Union of India 1.The Constitution (Ninety-Third Amendment) Act, 2005 does not violate the "basic structure" of the Constitution so far as it relates to the state maintained institutions and aided educational institutions. Question whether the Constitution (Ninety-Third Amendment) Act, 2005 would be constitutionally valid or not so far as "private unaided" educational institutions are concerned, is left open to be decided in an appropriate case. 2."Creamy layer" principle is one of the parameters to identify backward classes. Therefore, principally, the "Creamy layer" principle cannot be applied to STs and SCs, as SCs and STs are separate classes by themselves. 3. Preferably there should be a review after ten years to take note of the change of circumstances. 4. A mere graduation (not technical graduation) or professional deemed to be educationally forward. 5. Principle of exclusion of Creamy layer applicable to OBC's. 6. The Central Government shall examine as to the desirability of fixing a cut off marks in respect of the candidates belonging to the Other Backward Classes (OBCs)to balance reservation with other societal interests and to maintain standards of excellence. This would ensure quality and merit would not suffer. If any seats remain vacant after adopting such norms they shall be filled up by candidates from general categories. 7. So far as determination of backward classes is concerned, a Notification should be issued by the Union of India. This can be done only after exclusion of the creamy layer for which necessary data must be obtained by the Central Government from the State Governments and Union Territories. Such Notification is open to challenge on the ground of wrongful exclusion or inclusion. Norms must be fixed keeping in view the peculiar features in different States and Union Territories. There has to be proper identification of Other Backward Classes (OBCs.). For identifying backward classes, the Commission set up pursuant to the directions of this Court in Indra Sawhney 1 has to work more effectively and not merely decide applications for inclusion or exclusion of castes. 8.The Parliament should fix a deadline by which time free and compulsory education will have reached every child. This must be done within six months, as the right to free and compulsory education is perhaps the most important of all the fundamental rights (Art.21 A). For without education, it becomes extremely difficult to exercise other fundamental rights. 9.If material is shown to the Central Government that the Institution deserves to be included in the Schedule (institutes which are excluded from reservations) of The Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act, 2006 (No. 5 of 2007), the Central Government must take an appropriate decision on the basis of materials placed and on examining the concerned issues as to whether Institution deserves to be included in the Schedule of the said act as provided in Sec 4 of the said act. 10. Held that the determination of SEBCs is done not solely based on caste and hence, the identification of SEBCs is not violative of Article 15(1) of the Constitution.

Relevant Cases

  1. See Arts 12, 14, 15, 16, 19, 335 of the Constitution of India.
  2. State of Madras Vs. Smt. Champakam Dorairanjan AIR 1951 SC 226
  3. General Manager, S. Rly v. Rangachari AIR 1962 SC 36
  4. M R Balaji v. State of Mysore AIR 1963 SC 649
  5. T. Devadasan v Union AIR 1964 SC 179.
  6. C. A. Rajendran v. Union of India AIR 1965 SC 507.
  7. Chamaraja v Mysore AIR 1967 Mys 21
  8. Barium Chemicals Ltd. Vs Company Law Board AIR 1967 SC 295
  9. P. Rajendran Vs. State of Madras AIR 1968 SC 1012
  10. Triloki Nath Vs. State of Jammu and Kashmir AIR 1969 SC 1
  11. State of Punjab vs. Hira Lal 1970(3) SCC 567
  12. State of A.P. Vs U.S.V. Balram AIR 1972 SC 1375
  13. Kesavanand Bharti v St of Kerela AIR 1973 SC 1461
  14. State of Kerela Vs N. M. Thomas AIR 1976 SC 490 : (1976) 2 SCC 310
  15. Jayasree Vs. State of Kerala AIR 1976 SC 2381
  16. Minerva Mills Ltd Vs Union (1980) 3 SCC 625 : AIR 1980 SC 1789
  17. Ajay Hasia v Khalid Mujib AIR 1981 SC 487
  18. Akhil Bharatiya Soshit Karamchari Sangh Vs Union (1981) 1 SCC 246
  19. K. C. Vasant Kumar v. Karnataka AIR 1985 SC 1495
  20. Comptroller & Auditor-General of India, Gian Prakash Vs K. S. Jaggannathan (1986) 2 SCC 679
  21. Hindustan Zinc Ltd. Vs A. P. State Electricity Board (1991) 3SCC 299
  22. Indira Sawhney & Ors v. Union of India AIR 1993 SC 477 : 1992 Supp (3) SCC 217
  23. Unni Krishnan v. State of A.P. and Ors. (1993 (1) SCC 645)
  24. R K Sabharwal Vs St of Punjab AIR 1995 SC 1371 : (1995) 2 SCC 745
  25. Union of India Vs Varpal Singh AIR 1996 SC 448
  26. Ajitsingh Januja & Ors Vs State of Punjab AIR 1996 SC 1189
  27. Chander Pal & Ors Vs State of Haryana (1997) 10 SCC 474
  28. Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh Vs. Faculty Association 1998 AIR(SC) 1767 : 1998 (4) SCC 1
  29. Ajitsingh Januja & Ors Vs State of Punjab & Ors AIR 1999 SC 3471
  30. Indira Sawhney Vs. Union of India. AIR 2000 SC 498
  31. M G Badappanvar Vs St of Karnataka 2001(2) SCC 666 : AIR 2001 SC 260
  32. T.M.A.Pai Foundation v. State of Karnataka (2002) 8 SCC 481
  33. NTR University of Health Science Vijaywada v. G Babu Rajendra Prasad (2003) 5 SCC 350
  34. Islamic Academy of Education & Anr. v. State of Karnataka & Ors. (2003) 6 SCC 697
  35. Saurabh Chaudri & Ors. v. Union of India & Ors. (2003) 11 SCC 146
  36. P.A.Inamdar v. State of Maharashtra 2005 AIR(SC) 3226
  37. I.R. Coelho (Dead) by LRS. Vs. State of T.N. 2007 (2) SCC 1 : 2007 AIR(SC) 861
  38. M. Nagraj & Ors v. Union of India and Ors. AIR 2007 SC 71
  39. Ashok Kumara Thakur Vs Union of India. 2008

Types of Reservation

Seats in educational institutions and jobs are reserved based on a variety of criteria. The quota system sets aside a proportion of all possible positions for members of a specific group. Those not belonging to the designated communities can compete only for the remaining positions, while members of the designated communities can compete for all positions (reserved and open). For example, when 2 out of 10 clerical positions in railways are reserved for ex-servicemen, those who have served in the Army can compete both in the General Category as well as in the specific quota.

Caste based

Seats are reserved for Schedules Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Other Backward Castes (based chiefly on caste at birth) in varying ratio by the central government and state government. This caste is decided based on birth, and can never be changed. While a person can change his religion, and his economic status can fluctuate, the caste is permanent. In central government funded higher education institutions, 22.5% of available seats are reserved for Scheduled Caste (Dalit) and Scheduled Tribe (Adivasi) students (15% for SCs, 7.5% for STs). This reservation percentage has been raised to 49.5%, by including an additional 27% reservation for OBCs . In AIIMS 14% of seats are reserved for SCs, 8% for STs. In addition, SC/ST students with only 50% scores are eligible. This ratio is followed even in Parliament and all elections where few constituencies are earmarked for those from certain communities. In a few states like Tamil Nadu, the percentage of reservation is 18% for SCs and 1% for STs, being based on local demographics. In Andhra Pradesh, 25% of educational institutes and government jobs for BCs, 15% for SCs, 6% for STs and 4% for Muslims.

Religion based

The Tamil Nadu government has allotted 3.5% of seats each to Muslims and Christians, thereby altering the OBC reservation to 23% from 30% since it excludes persons belonging to Other Backward Castes who are either Muslims or Christians. The government's argument is that this sub-quota is based on the backwardness of the religious communities and not on the religions themselves.

Andhra Pradesh's administration has introduced a law enabling 4% reservations for Muslims. This has been contested in court. Kerala Public Service Commission has a quota of 12% for Muslims. Religious minority status educational institutes also have 50% reservation for their particular religions.

State of domiciles

With few exceptions, all jobs under state government are reserved to those who are domiciles under that government. In PEC Chandigarh, earlier 80% of seats were reserved for Chandigarh domiciles and now it is 50%.

Undergraduate colleges

Institutes like JIPMER have a policy of reserving postgraduate seats for those who completed their MBBS in JIPMER. AIIMS used to reserve 33% of its 120 postgraduate seats for the 40 undergraduate students (meaning everyone who had completed MBBS in AIIMS was assured a postgraduate seat, which was judged illegal by a Court.

Other criteria

Some reservations are also made for:

  • Gender (around 30% of seats are reserved for females in many institutions).
  • Sons/Daughters/Grandsons/Grand daughters of Freedom Fighters.
  • Physically handicapped.
  • Sports personalities.
  • Non-Resident Indians (NRIs).
  • Candidates sponsored by various organisations.
  • Those who have served in the armed forces (ex-serviceman quota).
  • Dependants of armed forces personnel killed in action.
  • Repatriates.
  • Those born from inter-caste marriages.
  • Widows and deserted women.


In view of the fact that several of the top undergraduate and graduate institutions in India, such as the IITs, the IIMs are among the most selective in the world, it is not surprising that most reservation criteria are applied at the stage of entrance examinations for these institutions. Some of the criteria are relaxed for reserved categories, while others are completely eliminated. Examples include:

  1. The minimum high school marks criteria are relaxed for reserved seats. For example in IIT JEE reserved category candidates scoring about 65% of the last admitted general category candidate are directly offered admission. Candidates not meeting this cutoff but scoring as low as half of this are offered admission to a one year preparatory course. In AIIMS, for example SC/ST students are eligible only if they score 50%. But this 50% is not mandatory for the institute quota and in occasion the Honourable High Court of Delhi had found that "AIIMS students, who had secured as low as 14% or 19% or 22% in the (all-India) entrance examination got admission to PG courses
  2. Age
  3. Fees, Hostel Room Rent etc
  4. Tuition fees and room rent is waived.

It is important to note, however, that the criteria required to graduate from an institution are never relaxed, although some institutions provide reduced load programs (such as the ones at IITs) to meet the special needs of these students.

Reservation policy in Tamil Nadu

Historical perspective

The reservation system in Tamil Nadu is much in contrast to the rest of India, not by the nature of reservation but by its history.When the first reservation protest hit New Delhi in May 2006, a contrasting quiet serenity was noticed in Chennai. Later, as the anti-reservation lobby gained in visibility in Delhi, Chennai saw quite street protests demanding reservation. Doctors in Chennai, including Indian Medical Association members, were in the forefront expressing their support for reservation in institutions of higher education run by the Central government.

Present practise

At present, in day to day practise, there is an approximately 51.14% reservation. The intended 69% reservation has been challenged as unconstitutional on the basis of an earlier supreme court ruling limiting reservations to 50%. While the case is pending, admissions are supposed to be based on "69% reservation", but those candidates who are denied admission because of the reservation exceeding 50% are reserved 'newly created extra seats'. This has led to a defacto reservation exclusively for the benefit of a section of the forward caste students (FCs between 50th and 69th percentiles) since the remaining bc/ mbc/sc/st category candidates gain nothing by being bracketted under open competition category since they are entitled to seats even before the (partial?) correction for sake of supreme court limit of 50 % is done. This unique exercise practised in Tamilnadu has effectively reduced the reservation% to exactly 51.114% (52.28/ 102.28 i.e., 2.28% 'newly created extra seats' to accommodate those "affected" by 69% reservation is calculated based on extrapolating the 12% [Source: see govt. table or govt. map below / use] FC census map(see below) to the 19% of all candidates between 50th and 69th percentile. The EXTRA 2.28% seats created are factored into the following calculations rather than a blind addition of 50 + 2.28 since 52.28/ 102.28 = 51.114%.

The effective reservation % in practise is calculated by using a simple formula: "Effective reservation%"= govt. stated category % (reserved % before oc candidates were admitted to pacify forward castes who were affected by the 69% rule) divided by govt stated total % and multiply this ratio to the effective total reservation % i.e.,actual reservation = 51.114/69 x (intended reservation % by Tamilnadu) Simply, due to an indirect practise of reservation for forward castes, the actual reservation status in Tamilnadu is AS FOLLOWS

Approx 1.7 % 'defacto reservation' for FCs between 50 th & 69 th percentile (0% intended),

for OBCs the actual reservation is approximately 22 1/4 % of seats(30% intended),

for MBCs the actual reservation is approximately 15 % of seats(20% intended),

for SCs the actual reservation is approximately 13 1/3 % of seats(18% intended)

& for STs the actual reservation is approximately 3/4 % of seats(1% intended).

This corrected implementation is being followed in all non minority institutions in tamilnadu. If the above correction is not taken into account, an illusion is created by which it wrongly appears as if all other communities gained seats more than their population at the expense of Forward Castes in total number of seats. But in reality the courts have knowingly/ unknowingly reserved approximately 2.28% of seats for everyone (rich/ poor) in the forward castes who belongs in between the 50th & 69th percentile when the govt. policy and the constitutional principle is to not reserve seats for any forward caste.


Sourced from a new article.1921

Anti Brahmin movement spearheaded by Justice Party, Communal Reservation introduced to restrict Brahmins to 16% of total seats.1951
16% Reservation for SC/ST and 25% Reservation for OBCs introduced. Total Reservation Stood at 41%1971
Sattanathan Commission recommended Introduction of "Creamy Layer" and altering Reservation percentage for Backward Classes to 16% and separate reservation of 17% to Most Backward Classes (MBCs).

DMK Government increased OBC reservation to 31% and Reservation for SC/ST has been increased to 18%. Total Reservation stood at 49%1980
ADMK government excludes "Creamy Layer" from OBC reservation benefits. Income Limit for availing Reservation benefit has been fixed at Rs 9000 Per Annum. DMK and other Opposition parties protested the decision.

Creamy Layer scheme withdrawn and Reservation % for OBC has been increased to 50%. Total Reservation Stood at 68%1989
Statewide Road Blockade Agitations were launched by Vanniar Sangam (Parent Body of Pattali Makkal Katchi) demanding 20% reservations in State Government and 2% Reservations in Central Government exclusively for Vanniyar Caste.

DMK Government Split OBC reservations as 2 Parts with 30% for OBC and 20% for MBC. Separate Reservation of 1% introduced for Scheduled Tribes. Total Reservation percentage stood at 69%.
Supreme Court, in Mandal Judgement, reiterated that Reservation percentage cannot exceed 50% and "Creamy Layer" to be excluded from Reservation benefits. 1994
Court instructed Tamil Nadu Government to follow 50% reservations in the case filed by famous lawyer K. M. Vijayan on behalf of VOICE Consumer forum. Anandakrishnan, one of the members of Oversight committee, and then Anna University chairman announced that 50% reservation will be followed. His house was attacked.

69% Reservation was included in 9th Schedule.

K. M. Vijayan was brutally attacked and maimed while leaving to New Delhi to file case in Supreme Court against inclusion of 69% reservation in 9th Schedule2006
Supreme Court asked Tamil Nadu Government to exclude Creamy Layer from Reservation benefits.

Admission Data from

Community Population (in Tamil Nadu only) Population % : (in Tamil Nadu only) Reserved Seats(%) (in Tamil Nadu only) Seats secured in OC (in Tamil Nadu only) % in OC (in Tamil Nadu only) +/- Over Population in OC (in Tamil Nadu only) % in Total (in Tamil Nadu only) +/- Over Population in Total (in Tamil Nadu only)
BC 2,87,93,980 46.14% 425(30%) 321 74.65% (+)28.51 52.72% (+)6.58
MBC/DC 1,30,24,065 20.86% 285(20%) 57 13.25% (-)7.61 24.16% (+)3.30
SC 1,18,57,504 19.00% 260(18%) 14 3.25% (-)15.75 19.36% (+)1.36
ST 6,51,321 1.04% 15(1%) 0 0% (-)1.04 1.06% (+)0.02%
Forward Castes 80,78,809 12.95% 0(0%) 38 8.83% (-)4.12% 2.68% (-)10.27%
Total 6,24,05,679 100.00% 100% 430 100% 100% 100% 100%

  • The backward community has improved due to reservation as they have secured about 75% of seats in unreserved category (while their population fraction is around 50%) and they do not need reservation any further.
  • It can be seen that the Backward Castes have gained more seats than their population at the expense of Forward Castes, Most Backward Castes, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
  • On calculating the % of forward castes among all students admitted it works out 2.68% in 2005 (38 out of 1415) and 1.9% in 2004 (28 out of 1415).
  • Even without reservation the percentage of students from forward castes who are admitted out of the total students admitted in general category is less than the percentage of their population.
  • It may be noted that 'Forward Castes' have secured only 9% seats in General Category (or less than 3% of seats overall) as against their population of 13%.
  • In total seats, all castes except Forward Castes were able to secure more than their population.
  • The 'backward castes' who form about 46% of the population have secured over 52% of the total available seats.
  • The SC and ST communities, are able to secure 19.36% and 1.08% respectively of the total number of seats and 3% and 0% seats in General Category.

Recent developments

May 2006 -August 2006
Anti Reservation Protests intensified in many parts of India.). Pro reservationists claim protests were intensified by media bias. Tamil Nadu stayed calm. This is attributed to low percentage of Forward castes in Tamil Nadu (13%) as against 36% in India. Due to high reservations for decades their representation in various spheres of life is much less than their population. (See Tamil Nadu Section). Those who opposed reservations in Tamil Nadu faced violent attacks

Alternative systems of Affirmative Action proposed by academics Prof. Purushottam Agrawal of the Jawaharlal Nehru University in the form of the Multiple Index Related Affirmative Action (MIRAA) - and by Prof. Satish Deshpande and Dr. Yogendra Yadav of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies -

Dr. Sam Pitroda, Chairperson of the National Knowledge Commission [an advisory body instituted by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh] came out in opposition to the proposed scheme to extend caste-based reservations to OBCs in institutes of Higher Education (

Dr. Pratab Bhanu Mehta, member-convener of the National Knowledge Commission resigns from his post in protest against the policy of reservations [Dr. Mehta's open letter of resignation -].

Indian Prime Minister appoints Oversight committee headed by former chief minister of Karnataka M. Veerappa Moily to suggest ways for implementation of reservations for Other Backward Classes and to suggest measures for increasing seats in educational institutions.

Oversight committee submits interim report and suggests phased implementation of reservations in central educational institutions for other backward classes.

OBC reservation bill introduced in the Lok Sabha and referred to standing committee. It has not excluded creamy layer (rich and affluent amongst the other backward classes) from enjoying reservation benefits per supreme court judgement.

Supreme court referred inclusion of 69% reservation in Tamil Nadu in 9th schedule to 9 member benchSeptember 2006-2007
Supreme court advised Tamil Nadu to exclude creamy layer among Backward classes from enjoying reservation facilities.

Supreme court observed that central Government is trying to introduce quota without adequate data.

Oversight committee submits final report.

Supreme court upheld constitutional amendment for providing reservations in promotions for Scheduled castes and Tribes. It reiterated 50% limit and exclusion of Creamy layer from enjoying reservation benefits.

Parliamentary standing committee recommended preference for non creamy layer (Poor among backwards) among backward classes from enjoying reservation benefits and comprehensive population survey to identify real backward people.

Sachar committee submitted its report regarding backwardness of Indian Muslims. It made many recommendations for uplifting Indian Muslims. It indicated that current enrollment in educational institutions of non Muslim OBC's is almost equal to/close to their population. It also recommended alternative methodfor identifying real needy people.

Union cabinet meeting rejected Parliamentary standing committee recommendations and decided to bring reservations bill by including creamy layer (Super rich) among other backward classes. Parliament passed OBC Reservations bill through voice vote.

AIIMS doctors started indefinite hunger strike protesting against reservations law.
April 2008
On 10 April 2008, the Supreme Court of India upheld the law that provides for 27% reservation for Other Backward Castes (OBCs) in educational institutions supported by the Central government, while ruling that the creamy layer among the OBCs should be excluded from the quota.

Population data

Only SC/ST population details are collected in Indian census. The SC/ST population is 24.4%. Other Backward Classes
After 1931,caste data is not collected for non SC/ST caste-groups in census. Mandal commission estimated OBC population based on 1931 census as 52%.There is an ongoing controversy about the estimation logic used by Mandal commission for calculating OBC population. Famous psephologist and researcher, Dr. Yogendra Yadav of the CSDS [who is a known votary of Affirmative Action] agrees that there is no empirical basis to the Mandal figure. According to him "It is a mythical construct based on reducing the number of SC/ST, Muslims and others and then arriving at a number."

National Sample Survey's 1999-2000 (NSS 99-00) round estimated around 36 per cent of the country's population is defined as belonging to the Other Backward Classes (OBC). The proportion falls to 32 per cent on excluding Muslim OBCs. A survey conducted in 1998 by National Family Health Statistics (NFHS) puts the proportion of non-Muslim OBCs as 29.8 per cent..These surveys are considered as large by Oversight committee in its final report and by Dr. Yogendra Yadav. Oversight committee has used these surveys extensively in its final report. State population of backward classes in NSS 99-00 can be found in other section of this article.Forward Castes

Many political and social leaders who supports reservations for the Other Backward classes like M Karunanidhi of the DMK, Dr.Udit Raj (President, Indian Justice Party) etc normally estimate "forward castes" population as anywhere between 5-15%.
This figure has hotly been disputed by such famous sociologists and commentators as Prof. Andre Beteille (Delhi School of Economics), Prof. Dipankar Gupta (Jawaharlal Nehru University), Prof. Satish Desphande (Delhi School of Economics), Dr Yogendra Yadav (CSDS) and Prof. Purushottam Agrawal (Jawaharlal Nehru University). National sample survey estimates "upper caste" population almost same as Backward classes at around 36%. Family health survey combined Forward castes population along with all communities of other religions. If one excludes Backward castes of other religions then it comes roughly around 38.6% which is more than Backward castes population.


There are several arguments provided both in support and in opposition to reservation. Some of the arguments on either side are often disputed by the other, while others are agreed upon by both sides, with a possible third solution proposed to accommodate both parties.

Arguments offered by supporters of reservation

  • Affirmative Action schemes are in place in many countries including USA, South Africa, Malaysia, Brazil etc. It was researched in Harvard University that Affirmative Action programmes are beneficial to the under-privileged. The studies said that Blacks who enter elite institutions with lower test scores and grades than those of whites achieve notable success after graduation. They earn advanced degrees at rates identical to those of their white classmates. They are even slightly more likely than whites from the same institutions to obtain professional degrees in law, business and medicine. They become more active than their white classmates in civic and community activities. .

Counter Point: Affirmative Action programmes in these countries, especially in the USA, differ significantly from the caste-based reservation system in place in India. Affirmative Action in the USA recognizes that there are multiple factors of exclusion and discrimination working in society (such as race, gender, economic factors etc) while caste-based reservations focus only on caste at the cost of addressing social justice concerns more effectively for the sake of narrow political ends.

  • Affirmative Action has helped many - if not everyone from under-privileged and/or under-represented communities to grow and occupy top positions in the world's leading industries. (See the Section on Tamil Nadu) Reservation in education is not THE solution, it is just one of the many solutions. Reservations is a means to increase representation of hitherto under-represented caste groups and thereby improve diversity on campus.

Counter Point: Reservation only on the basis of caste tends to only perpetuate caste in society rather than eliminate it as a factor of social consideration, as envisaged by the Indian Constitution. It also weakens the notion of democratic citizenship by evaluating a person not on the basis of his/her merits or achievements or personal characteristics, but rather on the basis of accidents of birth.

  • To provide social justice to the most marginalized and underprivileged is our duty and their human right. Reservation will really help these marginalized people to lead successful lives, thus eliminating caste-based discrimination which is still widely prevalent in India especially in the rural areas. (about 60% of Indian population stays in Villages)

Counter Point: Villages consist not only of the so called "lower classes" but also of the "upper castes"(30% rural population comprises upper castes according to national surveys ). The economic conditions of the latter might not be much better than the former due to the fact that India's rural areas are generally not developed and lack in basic infrastructure and education and health facilities(More than 25% of Upper castes are illiterates and 65% upper castes income is below Rs 525/Month ). In light of this, it is unfair to exclude the poor amongst the "upper castes". It is also unfair to not to exclude the rich or the influential amongst the "lower castes"(Many people from backward classes & minorities appear in Forbes rich Indians list ).

  • Reservations in Tamil Nadu over 30 years have worked to such a level that OBCs are able to outshine the Forward Castes (See Tamil Nadu Figure Below) and hence the overall performance of the students have increased validating the argument that reservation brings out the best from the weaker sections of the society.

Counter Point:It is not surprising that OBC's outshining Forward castes in Tamil Nadu where Forward castes are denied educational opportunities for more than 85 years through exorbitant reservations. We should be proud if we bring equality through our policies and should be ashamed if our policies result in reverse discrimination and generates new set of depressed classes as happened in Tamil Nadu.

  • Casteism is the root cause of the suffering of more than half (according to the disputed Mandal Commission) of India's population. To eliminate casteism we need to help underprivileged people to do well in their education and share the same social status as the upper caste people.

Counterpoint: The basic feature of the caste system is endogamy. To actually weaken the caste system, the government should provide incentives like reservations to people who marry outside their caste, thereby weakening the hold of the caste system in Indian Society. The fact that advanced industry is located in the south does not imply that only people gradudating from that region are employed in these companies. Instead, these companies employ people from a pan-India level.

  • Reservation is everywhere in India - The head of a big firm is always the son of the company's chair, irrespective of the fact that there is another meritious person. The post of Temple priest in some temples is reserved only for a man from the Brahmin Caste, even if there is another person who knows the mantras. There exists practices of having separate temples with Gods like Ayyanar, Mariammal etc, which are situated outside the village and the priests in these temples are not Brahmins. Janitor jobs are mostly done by people from the lowest caste, with very few exceptions, which are rare enough to make headlines There is no opposition to these kind of reservations, since these are for the benefits of "upper castes". The only opposition is the reservations in education, since those would benefit people from the "lower castes" to climb the social ladder.

Counterpoint: A distinction has to be drawn between the actions of a family-owned company or a religious foundation and the policies of a state founded on the principals of Secularism and Democracy. Meritocracy does not mean father has to transfer his wealth to best person ignoring his son and mother has to feed food to best child ignoring her own child. Inheritance of family owned properties is accepted practice all over the world;Denial of rights to section of population only based on birth without considering other factors was being followed in countries like South Africa in Apartheid era and being followed only in India and Malaysia currently.

Arguments offered by anti-reservationists

  • Caste Based Reservation only perpetuate the notion of caste in society, rather than weakening it as a factor of social consideration, as envisaged by the constitution. Reservation is a tool to meet narrow political ends.

Counter Point: We cannot close our eyes to the problem of caste. Caste is the predominant factor of exclusion even in 21st century India. The people who voice against the caste system neither do post solution to disband the caste system nor do they drop the caste identity.

  • Affirmative Action can be provided at a more comprehensive level taking into account various factors of exclusion such as caste, economic conditions, gender, kind of schooling received etc. A comprehensive scheme of Affirmative Action would be more beneficial than reservations in addressing concerns of social justice. Such a system was in place in the Jawaharlal Nehru University till 1983 [called the "Deprivation Points" system] and is used by both Universities and the industry in the USA.
  • Political parties & central government paint false picture of inequality between Forward Castes and Other Backward classes without referring its own survey results . National surveys results indicate that Other backward classes are comparable to Forward Castes in many parameters.].This was pointed out by many analysts who analysed survey results. and by Oversight committee in its final report. Backward classes outshine Forward Castes in important parameters like business ownership, rural employment, health indicators in many states etc. Other Backward Classes are comparable to Forward Castes in landholding pattern which is used by national surveys to understand the wealthiness of various social groups.
  • Allocating quotas is a form of discrimination which is contrary to the right to equality.

Counter Point: The government has to formulate policies to make sure that those who've been discriminated against for centuries also get an equal chance to move up the social ladder. The Supreme Court has mandated that as long as reservation does not exceed 50% of the total seats in an institution, it does not violate the constitutional right to equality.

  • There is great confusion in the "pro-reservation camp". While they clamour for 33% reservation for women in parliament and state legislatures [and do not accept caste quotas as part of women's quotas], they do not want special consideration for women in quotas in higher education. This is implicit acceptance of the fact that there are multiple factors of exclusion and discrimination at work in society.

Counter Point: The nature of discrimination against women is much different to that against the lower social class. Women were not considered subhuman in the earlier Indian society but the people of the lower caste were considered untouchables which is still widespread in rural India.

  • The policy of reservation has never been subject to a widespread social or political audit. Before extending reservation to more groups, the entire policy needs to be properly examined, and its benefits over a span of nearly 60 years have to be gauged.

Counter Point: Even with reservations for SCs/STs for 60 years, they have not been represented in jobs and in higher education in proportion to their population. This is proof that continued reservation is required to ameliorate their condition.

Counter Counter Point : This clearly proves that reservation in no way improves the status of the lower classes and is hence not the correct policy of affirmative action to be followed.

  • Providing quotas on the basis of an accident of birth and not on the basis of competitive merit will be discriminatory to talented students, and weaken the country's competitive edge.

Counter Point: Merit is an abstract notion and a social construct.

  • Poor people from "forward castes" do not have any social or economical advantage over rich people from backward caste.

Counter Point: Reservation is a tool to improve representation. It is not a poverty alleviation programme.

  • Combination of factors like Wealth, Income, Occupation etc will help to identify real needy people. Most often, only the economically sound people make use of most of the seats reserved for "backward" castes, thus making the aim a total failure.
  • Quoting reservations as a reason for growth of Tamil Nadu & other southern states is not logical. Growth can come only by increasing capacity and improving infrastructure whereas Reservation only divides existing available resources. Reservation in Tamil Nadu has existed for 85 years, but the progress rate has gone up only for the last 20 years). This could be easily attributed to Mid-day meals (which increased primary school enrollment), liberalization of higher education (the number of engineering colleges has gone up from 11 to 250), and IT revolution providing new job opportunities. All these happened in the last 20-25 years synonymous with its progress history. Gujarat, Haryana, Maharastra and Punjab were able to prosper even without exorbitant reservations for decades together like Tamil Nadu. States with high percentage of reservation does not show any significant growth difference in comparison with states which does not follow high% of reservation.

Counter point: The case of Tamil Nadu can be used as an example that reservation system does not halt the overall growth and well being of the state/nation.

  • There is fear that reservation once introduced will never be withdrawn even if there is a proof for upliftment of Backward classes, due to political issues. For example, in Tamil Nadu, forward castes were able to secure only 3% of total seats (and 9% in Open Competition) in professional institutions at Undergraduate level as against their population percentage of 13%.. This is a clear case of reverse discrimination.

Counter Point: With other states reluctant on implementing reservation Tamil Nadu holds the only hope as a haven for lower caste. It would be justified to subdue Tamil Nadu if rest of India opts for a fair reservation.

  • Many cite the Mandal Commission report while supporting the idea of reservations. According to the Mandal commission, 52% of the Indians belong to OBC category, whle according to National Sample Survey 1999-2000, this figure is only 36% (32% excluding Muslim OBCs).

Counter Point: That still keeps the overall percentage of OBC and SC/ST above 50% of the population.

  • This policy of the government has already caused increase in brain drain and may aggravate further. Under graduates and graduates will start moving to foreign universities for higher education.

Counter Point: Upper caste Indians were well known for the immigration pattern even before the dusk of the British Raj. Celebration of golden jubilee of IIT was celebrated in San Jose, California not because the they couldn't make it to the [IIT] but only after there graduation. In contrast Tamil diaspora to nations like Malaysia and Singapore at the end of the Slave trade was made possible due to the suppression of this population as lower caste and their look for greener pastures.

  • India is a country with BC Population ranging from 1% in some North Eastern states to 66% in Tamil Nadu with many major states below 27%. Applying 27% reservation in central educational institutions all over India will deprive chances of other sections of population greatly. Already SC/ST reservation is available in all states equivalent to their population percentage. In Many Major states like Punjab, West Bengal, Haryana, Maharastra etc Forward castes students admitted will be much less than their population in Reservation Era even if they secure 100% seats in Open competition. Reference chart given.

Possible solution: As claimed by some states (incidentally Tamil Nadu, which is the center of the argument of in the reservation issue, being the first to state its claim) a Federal Republic system of government may be more suited for a varied and diverse nation like India.

Other notable suggestions

The following policy changes have been suggested in order to find a solution to the problem:

Suggestions by Sachar Committee

  • Sachar Committee which has studied the backwardness of Indian Muslims have recommended following scheme for identifying real backward and needy people.

Marks based on Merit : 60

Marks based on Household Income (Irrespective of caste) : 13

Marks based on District in which person studied(Rural/Urban & Region : 13

Marks based on Family occupation and caste : 14

Total Marks : 100

Sachar committee has also indicated that OBC Hindus presence in educational institutions is almost equal to/close to their population. Indian Human Resources Minister has immediately appointed committee to study about sachar committee recommendations on Indian Muslims but did not offer any comments regarding his other suggestions.

Suggestion by Centre for the Study of Developing Societies

  • It has been suggested that although caste is an important factor of exclusion at work in Indian society; other factors such as gender, economic conditions, geographical disparities and kind of schooling received cannot be altogether ignored. For example, a kid studying in a village or municipal school does not enjoy the same status in society as another who has studied in an elite public school, caste notwithstanding. Some academics have argued that a better system of Affirmative Action would be one which seeks to address all the factors of exclusion at work in society which restrict a person's competitive abilities. Notable contributions in this regard have been made by Professor Purushottam Agrawal of the Jawaharlal Nehru University in the form of the Multiple Index Related Affirmative Action [MIRAA] system (see here: and by Dr. Yogendra Yadav and Dr. Satish Deshpande of the Centre for the Study Developing Societies [CSDS].

Suggestions from others

  • Reservation decisions has to be taken based on objective basis
  • Emphasis should be given to proper primary (and secondary) education so that groups under-represented in higher education institutes and workplaces become natural competitors.
  • The number of seats should be increased in the prestigious higher education institutes (such as IITs).
  • Government should announce long term plan to phase out reservations.
  • Government should promote inter-caste marriages in big way for abolition of caste system as initiated by Tamil Nadu.

This is because the basic defining characteristic of the Caste system is endogamy. It has been suggested that providing reservations to children born of inter-caste marriages will be a surer way of weakening the caste system in society.

  • Reservations should be based on economic status instead of caste-based-reservations (But the middle class who get salaries will suffer and all the landlords and business tycoons can enjoy the benefit)
  • People who are tax payers or children of tax payers should not be eligible for reservation. This is will ensure that benefits reach poorest of the poor and India will achieve social justice. The people opposed to this idea say that this will encourage people not to pay taxes and will be an injustice to those who pay taxes honestly.
  • Using IT the government must gather latest data on caste wise population, education attainment, occupational achievements, wealth etc. and present this information to the nation. Finally conduct a plebiscite on this issue to see what the people want. If there are significant differences what people want (as we can see in this wiki) then the government can have different castes take care of its own community by running their own educational institutions and providing employment opportunities without any government interference.

See also


External links

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