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Constitutional view of Reservations and a demand for justification

“Persons differently circumstanced need not be treated in the same manner” . How are all the upper classes treated in the same manner for employment then?

Article 14 of the Constitution reads:

“The state shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India”

What do the two phrases in this Article namely “equality before the law” and “equal protection of law” mean? On the face of it the two phrases may seem to be identical, but in fact, they mean different things.

  • The former declares that everyone is equal before law, that no one can claim privileges and that all classes are equally subject to the ordinary law of the land.
  • “Equal protection of Law”, on the other hand means, that among equals, the law should be equal and equally administered. That like should be treated as like. Or in other words, persons differently circumstanced need not be treated in the same manner.
  • For example ‘Equal protection of Law’ does not mean that every persons shall be taxed equally, but that persons under the same category should be taxed by the same standard. The guarantee of “equal protection” thus is a guarantee of equal treatment of persons in “equal circumstances” permitting differentiation in different circumstances.

Article 16 of the Constitution:

  • Article 16 of the constitution provides for equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the state.

Article 16 reads as under:

  • Clause(1):There shall be equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the State.
  • Clause(2):No citizen shall on grounds only of religion, race, caste sex, descent, place of birth, residence or any of them, be ineligible for, or discriminated against in respect of any employment of office under the State.
  • Clause (3): Nothing in this article shall prevent Parliament from making any law prescribing, in regard to a class or classes of employment or appointment to an office under the Government of or any local or other authority within, a State or Union Territory, any requirement as to residence within that State or Union Territory prior to such employment or appointment.
  • Clause (4)- Nothing in this Article shall prevent the State from making any provision for the reservation of appointments or posts in favour of any backward class of citizens which in the opinion of the State, is not adequately represented in the services under the state“.

Scope of Reservation

  • In 1990 higher education institutions, public sector units & Government Bodies, 22.5% of available seats were made reserved for Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST) 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 2006.
  • 5-10% of aggregate marks and 3-5years of age relaxation and exemption from tuition fees is given to SC, ST & OBC candidates who wish to take admissions in various Government institutions.
  • The Central government’s has given the 5% reservation to the physically disabled person who have 40% or more disabilities.
  • In 2010 Women get one third reservation in gram panchayat (village assembly – a form of local village government) and municipal elections. There is a long-term plan to extend this reservation to parliament and legislative assemblies. For instance, some law schools in India have a 30% reservation for females, women also enjoys the separate Higher education institutions which are made only for women and no other is allowed for admission in those institutes.
  • In mid-2012 25% reservation is provided to the reserved category children in the Government aided & Private schools under the Right to education act which was passed earlier by the parliament.

Immediate consequences

  • In the Higher Education institutes and Government Bodies reserved category people are given the relaxations, which results in admission of people who have lower aggregate percentage of marks both in academics & competitive exams.

Short-term consequences

  • The percentage of SC, ST, and OBC in government institutions have risen sharply, today the total percentage of reserved category persons working in these institution is about 40%.
  • The exploited non reserved category persons who missed the opportunity because someone else has taken his place have become deprived and miserable in the poor economic conditions of India thus contradicting  the constitution.

Long-term consequences

  • The population of reserved category community has increased through the years since 1990, though the government still has not made any policy and official statistics of Indian population based on caste, which are still pending to be released to the public. The combined population of Indians is increasing as always.
  • Several Unreserved or General category communities have started demanding reservation for them, these communities which include (Gujars, Jats of State of Haryana, Seers, Patel Movement, etc.).

Also Read: Reservations in India : a Historical Perspective

How is it effecting the country?

  • Some philosophers believe that India has lost its pace for the development due to the reservation in India, because more capable persons were not offered the places which they deserved on the bases of acts done in past.
  • We have seen how people with even zero marks in CAT have managed with get into IIMs because of reservations and people with 98 percentile still struggle to end up in a decent college.
  • Some think that reservation in India is not good for society since the people will still remain divided among themselves due to the increase and decrease of Financial and Social status in the society.

Future Problems and Possible Solutions

  • Like the current Patel agitation in Gujarat, if all the communities start disrupting the harmony for the sake of reservations the country will be in total chaos.
  • The opposition parties use it as a tool to stop the functioning of the parliament thus halting the progress of the country.”Always developing – never developed”
  • Chief minister of Andhra Pradesh has started Bharati Vidya Scheme  to provide financial support to economically backward students of the upper caste. This is something that is expected from the central government too.
  • Remove Caste based reservations, make it based on the economic status. That is what the constitution reads. “Right to Equality”. Just because there is a tag “upper caste” attached to them(which they have not earned in anyway)  all of them are not in  “equal circumstances”.

The primary stated objective of the Indian reservation system is to increase the opportunities for enhanced social and educational status of the underprivileged communities and thus uplift their lifestyle to have their place in the mainstream of Indian society. Now how do you define underprivileged communities ? Article 14 and 16 justified ? Think about it…..



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