Reservation System in India, Erwin Thomas Wilson@LexCliq

The idea of creating a caste-based reservation system was conceived in 1882 by William Hunter and Jyotirao Phule. However, the reservation system, as it is today, came into existence in 1933 with the ‘Communal Award’ introduced by the then British Prime Minister Ramsay Macdonald. The award sought to make separate electorates based on the different communities present in India, namely Muslims, Sikhs, Anglo Indians, Indian Christians, Europeans, and the Dalits. This was followed by elongated debates, and after much negotiations, the Poona Pact was signed that stated that there would be one single Hindu electorate with certain reservations.
Post-independence, the reservation was only provided with the scheduled castes and the scheduled tribes. Following the findings of the Mandal Commission, OBCs were included within the reservation list in 1991.

Legal provisions for reservation

The provisions stated under Article 15(4) and 16(4) of the Indian Constitution allow the Central, and the State Government to reserve seats for the SCs, and STs for government services. Following this, in the 77th Constitution amendment Act, clause 4(A) was introduced in Article 16 in which allowed the government to provide reservation in promotions. This clause was later edited in the 85th amendment to accommodate for the consequential seniority for the SCs, and STs promoted. Other provisions of the Constitution, namely Articles 330 and 332, 243D, 335 also mention the specific reservations for proper representation of the minorities in the Panchayats, the Parliament, and the municipalities.

Caste-based reservation vs economic reservation

In the case of Indra Sawhney v. Union of India, the Supreme Court of India held that the reservation cap could not exceed 50%. Hence it was held that since the apex court had consistently held that the reservation quota guaranteed under the provisions of Article 15(4) and 16(4) could not surpass 50%, any reservation instances found over 50% would be liable to be stuck down.
The Economic Reservation Bill which was later added to the Constitution of India in the 124th amendment was defended on the ground that the upper cap to the reservation was intended for caste-based reservation, and hence would not be applicable to the economic reservation that was implemented.

Faculty reservation

The Supreme Court, on January 21st, 2019 upheld a 2017 judgment passed by the Allahabad High Court. The judgment sought to consider the departments as a unit instead of a college or university.
The issues with the appointment in this fashion create a problem. Under this scheme, an appointment from the reserved categories will be made only after 14 appointments in that specific department have been made. This is referred to as the 13 point roster. In the case of treating the university or the college as a whole which is also known as the 200 point roster, the reserved categories are appointed as soon as a minimum of 200 appointments has been made. Hence, in the case of the 200 point roster system, the deficit in the requisite number of appointments of reserved categories is easier to make up for rather than the 13 point system based on unitary departments.


The reservation system was introduced for the upliftment of the marginalized categories. However, proper representation of these minority categories at every walk of life remains a challenge even after 73 years of our independence. While the situation has greatly improved from what it used to be, there is still a significant distance to be covered by the Indian polity to ensure that the harmonious representation of the minority is conserved.

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