Caste Based Reservation In India – Origin, Cause, Impact On Society

Caste Based Reservation In India – Origin, Cause, Impact On Society

Caste Based Reservation In India

Reservation In India – Introduction

  • The system of reservation in India comprises a series of affirmative (i.e. positive) action measures, taken up by the government to uplift the weaker sections of society by getting them into government jobs and higher educational institutions.
  • Constitution recognizes Schedule Caste(SC), Schedule Tribe (ST) and Backward Classes (including OBC).
  • This system is unique. India is the only country where reservation exists because India is multi-religious country.
  • It was conceived as a temporary measure to bring all the community on one stand.

Historical Background

  • In 1918, The Maharaja of Mysore having received a petition from the depressed class people, appointed Miller committee to go into the question of adequate representation of non-Brahmin communities in the services of the State.
  • After First World War started in 1914, British Government considered bringing some Constitutional reforms to elicit the support of the people in India.
  • In return for support in First World War, Britisher accepted the policy of self-governing institutions i.e. Provincial Assemblies and Central Legislative Assembly.
  • Policy of self-governing institutions also known as Introduction of Montague – Chelmsford Reform incorporated in the Government of India Act, 1919.
  • The British Government appointed Simon Commission to assess the Indian society and suggest reforms.
  • One of their recommendation was need to safeguard the minorities, and other socially and politically depressed classes of people.
  • The depressed classes demanded a separate electorate. But the Commission did not favour this. However the Commission was not against reserving seats for them.
  • In 1923, government decided not to give grants to those aided schools that refused admission to the children of the depressed classes.
  • The depressed class under the leadership of Dr. Ambedkar demanded reserved seats for the untouchables in legislative bodies, special educational concessions, and recruitment to Government posts.
  • The British Government convened a Round Table Conference in November 1930. Indian National Congress didn’t participate in it. It was engaged in the Civil Disobedience Campaign against the Government.
  • Prime Minister Macdonald announced the communal award where the separate representations were to be provided to Muslims, Sikhs, Indian Christians, Anglo-Europeans and Dalits Depressed classes.
  • Gandhi, the unquestioned leader of the National Movement, was opposed to any kind of reservation, later changed his position and conceded to setting up separate electorates to religious minorities like Muslims, Sikhs and Christians. But he was totally against separate electorate for depressed classes calling it Britishers policy of Divide and rule.
  • Poona Pact – The Poona Pact refers to an agreement between B. R. Ambedkar and M. K. Gandhi made on 24 September 1932 at Yerwada Central Jail in Poona, India. It brought in a single general electorate for each of the seats of Britisher India and new Central Ligislatures.
  • According to this historic agreement depressed classes would get 147 seats in the provincial councils instead of 71 promised in the Ramsay MacDonald’s award. The Depressed classes could get 18% of the seats in the Central Assembly also.
  • This pact was finally stamped when the Government of India Act of 1935 where reservation of seats for depressed classes was allotted.
  • The Government of India Act 1935 replaced the term ‘depressed classes’ with ‘Scheduled Castes’.
  • Even though seats in the legislature were reserved both for the ‘minority’ communities and for the ‘depressed classes’, reservation in the public service was denied to the ‘depressed classes’, whereas the minority communities enjoyed ‘reservation’ in the public services.
  • Ambedkar became a member of Viceroy’s Executive Council as a minister for labour. he used his position in the Government to further the interests of the Depressed Classes. He demanded reservations not only in the legislative seats but also in education and Government employment.
  • His demand was accepted and this became the basis for the policy of India when it was framing the Constitution.

What happened in Constitutional Assembly Debate?

  • Constituent Assembly came into existence in December, 1946.
  • Farmers wanted to set up a egalitarian society where there is a special protection of the socially, educationally and political backward communities.
  • According to Minority committee Report – Representation in the Legislature and the representation in proportion to their population, reservation in higher education institution and government jobs.
  • A joint electorate was accepted. Reservation of seats for minorities based on religion was also not accepted by the Constituent Assembly.
  • All these provisions were only temporary and if after ten years, their position happens to be the same, then it is open to the parliament either to renew it or abolish it.

After Independence

  • Article 14, 15 and 16, where ‘equality as a policy’  is implied in those provision that ensure reservation for the socially and economically backward class of people, which inevitably includes scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.
  • The right to be treated with respect and concern as anyone else is implied in Article 17 and also in The Protection of Civil Rights Act. To a certain extent Abolition of Titles in Article 18 also emphasizes equality among citizens.
  • Articles 25 to 28 confer certain rights relating to freedom of religion on all persons in India.
  • Article 46 directs the State to take steps to protect educational and economic interests of the weaker sections and in particular, of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

Representation In Services

  • But reservation of seats for SCs and STs in Lok Sabha and State Legislatures for ten years was agrees upon. But the period has been extended from time to time.
  • Three categories of people who deserved the benefits of Protective Discrimination: the backward castes and the Scheduled Tribes.
  • Schedule caste and Schedule Tribes are already been defined in constitution. But the problem is that constitution does not have a proper explanation for Backward Class.
  • Article 15(4) & (5) talks about socially and educationally backward classes where as Article 16(4) talks about ‘other backward classes’.

But what does backward classes actually means?

Backward Class

  • The term ‘backward classes’ as originally used around 1919 by political leaders, referred to a section of population which was backward in a socio-economic sense. It is not limited to caste.
  • The term ‘backward caste’ encompasses the depressed classes, the aboriginal tribes and other backward classes (OBCs).
  • While the constitution clearly says that special provisions must be made for the SCs and STs, it does not mention the OCs. It only refers to “social and educationally backward classes of citizens, in addition to the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes”.
  • In 1953 Kelkar Committee was setup, which recommended that caste should be basis for Backward Classes. Union Govt did not accepted the report.
  • In 1963 – M. R Balaji v. State of Mysore  – Court held that the backward class should be backward both socially & educationally and not just socially or educationally.
  • The backwardness of backward class should be comparable with backwardness in SC & ST. They should not just be below the most advanced sections of society but must be sufficiently below the average standard of advancement.
  • Caste can be relevant consideration for determining backwardness, but it should not be the only consideration. Other factors are like Poverty, habitation, occupation can be relevant for the legislature to consider what is backwardness.
  • In 1979 2ND BACKWARD CLASSES COMMISSION was setup under the chairmanship of B.P Mandal by “The Mandal Commission”. They recommended that caste should be the basis for the reservation and there should be 27% reservation in Central & State Services, Public undertakings & Educational Institutions.
  • The recommendation of reservations for OBC’s in government service was implemented in 1993. As on 27 June 2008, there was still a backlog of 28,670 OBC vacancies in government jobs.

Constitutional Provision

  • Article 14 : EQUALITY BEFORE LAW
  • Article 15(3) : Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any special provision for women and children.
  • Article 15(4) : Nothing in this article or in clause (2) of Article 29 shall prevent the State from making any special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of Citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (State of Madras v. Champakam Dorairajan)(1st amendment)
  • Article 15(5) : Provision for Reservation of Backward, SC and ST classes in private educational institutions (93rd amendment)
  • Article 16(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 opinion of the State, is not adequately represented in the services under the State.
  • Article 16 (4A) : Nothing in this article shall prevent the state from making any provision for reservation in matter of promotion, with consequential seniority. (77th amendment).


  • Supreme court in Indira Sawhney & Ors v. Union of India (1993) upheld Implementaion of separate reservation forother backward classes in central government jobs.
  • Ordered to exclude Creamy Layer of other backward classes from enjoying reservation facilities.
  • Ordered to restrict reservations within 50% limit.
  • Declared separate reservations for economically poor among forward castes as invalid.

What heppens when you change religion?

  • A person not belonging to SC/ST by birth will not be deemed to be a member of SC/ST by virtue of marriage with a person belonging to SC/ST.Similarly, a person belonging to SC/ST by birth will continue to belong to that category even after marriage with a person not belonging to SC/ST.
  • If a SC person converted to a religion other than Hinduism/ Sikhism/ Buddhism, reconverted himself back to these religions, he will be deemed to have reverted to his original SC status. If he is accepted by the member of that particular caste as one among them.

All the best for your upcoming exam!

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Updated: May 7, 2019 — 2:49 am

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