Historical Background Of Reservation In Educational Institutions In India

Historical Background Of Reservation In Educational Institutions In India

The Author of this Article Sh. Dinesh Yadav is a practicing advocate at Rajasthan High Court. He has also remained Additional Advocate General for the Government of Rajasthan. In this article, the author has expressed his views on the subject "Historical Background Of Reservation In Educational Institutions In India".

Reservation in educational institutions in India is a policy designed to ensure social justice and equal opportunities for historically marginalized communities. This system aims to level the playing field by providing affirmative action for Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs), Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and economically weaker sections. Enshrined in the Indian Constitution, the reservation policy has been a subject of extensive arguments, debate, legal scrutiny and social discourse.

Historical Background:
The concept of reservation dates back to pre-independence India, where measures were taken to uplift the oppressed classes. However, it gained formal recognition and constitutional backing after India's independence in 1947. The framers of the Constitution of India, particularly

Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, proposed reservations as a means to address historical injustices and socio-economic disparities.

Constituent Assembly Debates

The Constituent Assembly, tasked with drafting the Indian Constitution, held extensive debates on the issue of reservations. Key members, including Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, and others who contributed to these discussions.

Key Arguments and Provisions

1. Article 15(4) and 15(5) - Special Provisions for Advancement
•    Debate Summary: Articles 15(4) and 15(5) empower the State to make special provisions for the advancement of socially and educationally backward classes, SCs, and STs. During the debates, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar emphasized the need for such provisions to ensure that historically disadvantaged communities could catch up with the rest of society and the injustice could be reduced to an extent.
•    Key Points: Members argued that without special provisions, mere equality before the law would not suffice to bridge the socio-economic gap and it will be an empty formality. Those in opposition of the proposed provision raised concerns about potential reverse discrimination and the undermining of merit.

2. Article 16(4) - Reservation in Public Employment
•    Debate Summary: Article 16(4) allows the State to make provisions for the reservation in appointments or posts in favor of any backward class citizens that, in the opinion of the State, is not adequately represented in public services.
•    Key Points: Ambedkar, being the champion of the cause of social justice, argued for the necessity of reservation in public employment to ensure adequate representation of SCs and STs. Some members voiced their concern about efficiency and merit in public services. However, the overwhelming consensus was in favour of affirmative action to address historical injustices.

3. Article 46 - Promotion of Educational and Economic Interests
•    Debate Summary: Article 46 directs the State to promote the educational and economic interests of weaker sections of the people, particularly SCs and STs, and to protect them from social injustice and exploitation.
•    Key Points: This directive principle was widely supported, with members emphasizing the role of the State in uplifting marginalized communities through education and economic support.

Key Speeches and Perspectives

Dr. B.R. Ambedkar
•    Argument for Reservation: Dr. Ambedkar, himself from a marginalized community, was a staunch advocate for reservations. He argued that reservations were essential to ensure real equality, given the centuries of oppression and social exclusion faced by SCs and STs. He emphasized that social justice could not be achieved merely through legal equality but required substantive measures to uplift the oppressed communities.

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel
•    Balanced Approach: Patel recognized the need for reservations but cautioned against its overextension. He argued for a balanced approach that would ensure social justice without compromising the efficiency of public services and educational institutions.

Jawaharlal Nehru
•    Long-term Vision: Nehru supported the idea of temporary reservations. He believed that affirmative action was necessary but should be revisited periodically to ensure that it does not become a permanent crutch that hinders the integration of marginalized communities into mainstream society.

Several Articles in the Indian Constitution provide the basis for reservation in education:

1. Article 15(4): Empowers the State Government to make special provisions for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes or for SCs and STs.
2. Article 15(5): Enables the State to make special provisions for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes, SCs, and STs in educational institutions, including private institutions, whether aided or unaided, except minority educational institutions.
3. Article 46: Directs the State to promote the educational and economic interests of SCs, STs, and other weaker sections and to protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.

Reservation Policies

The reservation system in educational institutions encompasses several categories:
1. Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs): Reservations for SCs and STs were introduced to correct historical injustices and ensure their participation in mainstream education. 15% of seats are reserved for SCs and 7.5% for STs.

2. Other Backward Classes (OBCs): In 1992, following the Mandal Commission Report, 27% of seats were reserved for OBCs in central government educational institutions. The report identified and listed backward classes based on social, educational, and economic criteria.

3. Economically Weaker Sections (EWS): In 2019, the government introduced a 10% reservation for economically weaker sections from the general category. This move aimed to assist economically disadvantaged individuals who do not fall under the SC, ST, or OBC categories.

Key Judgments

Several landmark Supreme Court judgments have shaped the reservation policy in educational institutions:

1. Indra Sawhney v. Union of India (1992): AIR 1993 SC 477
Summary: This landmark judgment, also known as the Mandal Commission case, upheld the 27% reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in Central Government jobs and educational institutions. The Supreme Court introduced the concept of "creamy layer" to exclude the more affluent members of OBCs from availing the reservation benefits. It also capped the total reservation at 50%, ensuring that merit is not entirely compromised.

2. T.M.A. Pai Foundation v. State of Karnataka (2002): (2002) 8 SCC 481
Summary: This judgment dealt with the rights of private unaided educational institutions regarding admissions and reservations. The Supreme Court emphasized the autonomy of private unaided institutions while allowing the State to regulate admissions to ensure fairness and prevent profiteering. It balanced the need for institutional autonomy with the State's responsibility to ensure access to education for all.

3. Ashoka Kumar Thakur v. Union of India (2008): (2008) 6 SCC 1
Summary: This case challenged the constitutionality of the 93rd Amendment, which provided for the reservation of seats for OBCs in central educational institutions. The Supreme Court upheld the amendment and the 27% reservation for OBCs but reiterated the exclusion of the creamy layer from these benefits. The judgment reinforced the balance between social justice and meritocracy.

4. Janhit Abhiyan v. Union of India (2022): Writ Petition (Civil) No. 55 of 2019, Supreme Court of India
Summary: This judgment upheld the constitutionality of the 103rd Amendment Act, which introduced a 10% reservation for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) in educational institutions and public employment. The Supreme Court ruled that the amendment did not violate the basic structure of the Constitution, thus expanding the scope of reservations to include economic criteria.

5. M. Nagaraj v. Union of India (2006) Citation: (2006) 8 SCC 212
Summary: The Supreme Court examined the constitutional validity of amendments that allowed reservations in promotions for SCs and STs in public employment. The Court upheld the amendments but stipulated that the State must demonstrate the backwardness of the class, inadequacy of representation, and maintenance of administrative efficiency before implementing such reservations.

6. State of Madras v. Champakam Dorairajan (1951) Citation: AIR 1951 SC 226
Summary: This early landmark case struck down caste-based reservations in educational institutions, holding that they violated the fundamental rights guaranteed by Article 29(2) of the Constitution. This judgment led to the first constitutional amendment, which added Article 15(4) to empower the state to make special provisions for socially and educationally backward classes.

7. P.A. Inamdar v. State of Maharashtra (2005) Citation: (2005) 6 SCC 537
Summary: The Supreme Court held that the State could not impose its reservation policy on private unaided educational institutions, including professional colleges. This judgment emphasized the autonomy of private institutions and clarified that State interference should be minimal, primarily ensuring fair access without imposing quotas.

8. Balaji v. State of Mysore (1963) Citation: AIR 1963 SC 649
Summary: This case challenged the excessive reservation (68%) in educational institutions in Mysore. The Supreme Court ruled that reservations should not exceed 50%, a principle that has influenced subsequent judgments and policies. The Court also stated that reservations should be based on social and educational backwardness, not solely on caste.

Impact and Controversies
The reservation policy has had a profound impact on increasing access to education for marginalized communities. It has facilitated greater representation of SCs, STs, and OBCs in higher education and professional courses, contributing to social mobility and economic empowerment.

However, the policy is not without controversies. Critics argue that reservation can compromise meritocracy and lead to reverse discrimination. There are also concerns about the implementation of the creamy layer concept and the potential exclusion of genuinely needy individuals within the reserved categories. A section of Society is also demanding application of creamy layer to all reserved categories and not to restrict it only to OBCs so that the reservation reaches to the bottomline of the Society.

The Constituent Assembly debates on reservation were marked by a strong consensus on the need for affirmative action to correct historical injustices and provide equal opportunities to marginalized communities. The debates resulted in the incorporation of several key provisions in the Constitution that form the basis of India’s reservation policies today.

Reservation in educational institutions in India is a crucial mechanism to promote social justice and equality. While it has significantly benefited historically marginalized communities, the policy must continuously evolve to address emerging challenges and ensure that it serves its intended purpose effectively. Balancing merit and social justice remains a complex yet essential task for policymakers and society at large.

Share this News

Website designed, developed and maintained by webexy