RESERVATION (Syllabus: GS Paper 2 – Polity)

News-CRUX-10     21st June 2024        

Context: Recently, Patna High Court overturned Bihar government notifications that raised reservation quotas in government jobs and educational institutions from 50% to 65%, emphasizing the importance of balancing merit with equitable opportunities for backward classes.

Constitutional Provisions Related to Reservation

  • 77th Constitutional Amendment Act, 1995: The Indra Sawhney verdict established that reservation would apply only to initial appointments and not promotions.

oDespite this, Article 16(4A) added by the 77th Amendment empowered states to provide reservations in promotions for SC/ST employees if they are deemed inadequately represented.

  • 81st Constitutional Amendment Act, 2000: The 81st Amendment introduced Article 16(4B), stipulating that unfilled SC/ST quotas from one year will be carried forward separately to the next, distinct from regular vacancies.
  • 85th Constitutional Amendment Act, 2001: It enabled reservation in promotions for SCs and STs with 'consequential seniority,' retroactively from June 1995.
  • Recent Amendments: The 102nd, 103rd, and 104th have further shaped reservation policies.

oThe 103rd Amendment notably introduced a 10% reservation for economically weaker sections (EWS).

  • Article 335: It Article 335 mandates that while considering claims of SCs and STs for reservation, the efficiency of administration must also be maintained.

50% Cap of Reservation

  • Origin: The 50% cap originated from the M.R. Balaji case in 1962, where the court suggested the necessity of such a limit. In the T. Devadasan case, the court further extended this limit to include government jobs, emphasizing its commitment to preserving equality of opportunity as guaranteed by the Constitution.
  • Introduction of the 50% Ceiling: In its landmark 1992 decision in Indra Sawhney v Union of India, the Supreme Court introduced the 50% ceiling to ensure "efficiency" in administration.
  • Verdict: The 6-3 majority verdict upheld the 27% quota for socially and economically backward classes (SEBC), setting two crucial precedents: emphasizing "social and educational backwardness" as criteria for reservation and reiterating the 50% limit to vertical quotas established in earlier judgments.
  • Re-affirmation of the Indra Sawhney Ruling: Since the Indra Sawhney ruling, subsequent cases have consistently upheld the 50% ceiling on reservations.
  • Challenges to the 50% Limit: Despite reaffirmations, efforts to breach the 50% limit have persisted, gaining traction in states like Bihar and becoming a significant political issue.
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