Reservation policy in India

It’s the matter of 1914, a question was raised in Madras Legislative Council about the Communal ratio of total number of registered graduates in Madras University. Then it had come to know that among 650 seats, 452 were Brahmins, 12 were Non-Brahmin Hindus and 74 belong to other communities. This the whole reason for the reservation policy in India to be active. Let us now know origin, causes of caste based reservation policy in India.


The system of reservations in India comprises of affirmative action measures, taken up by the government to uplift the weaker sections of the society by getting them into government jobs and higher educational institutions. There are basically three categories of class of citizens which are recognised by the Constitution for the reservation. Those are Scheduled Caste (SC), Scheduled Tribe (ST) and Other Backward Classes (OBC). This reservation system is unique because India is a multi religious, multi linguistic country. That is why these reservations were needed to bring all communities to the same level.

Historical Background

In 1918, the Maharaja of Mysore have received a petition from the depressed class of people. To investigate that Maharaja appointed Miller Committee to know whether Non-Brahmin community has proper representation in his state services. This is where a positive thing had started to happen about depressed class and minorities.

In 1914 also, when 1st world War started, Britain was completely focusing on the war and they wanted Indians to help them in the war. So, as they wanted Indians to participate in war, they accepted long pending request of self governing institutions i.e. provincial assemblies and Central Legislative Assembly. This self governing institutions can also be states as Montague- Chelmsford Reform. This was added in The Government of India act in 1919 and on the other side, the discussion of minority communities was also going and there was a question about how to identify depressed class of citizen. For this, British Government appointed Simon Commission to assess the Indian society and suggest reforms. One of their recommendation was the need to safeguard the minorities and other socially, politically depressed class of people. The depressed classes demanded for a seperate electorate of election. But the commission did not accept that. Commission said that, seperate electorate is not possible but they would reserve them seats.

In 1923, government decided not to give grants to those aided schools that refused the admission of depressed class students. The depressed class under the leadership of Dr. Ambedkar demanded reserved seats for Untouchables in legislative bodies, special education concessions, and recruitment to government posts. To resolve these demands, the British government made a Round Table Conference in November 1930. But the first and second Round Table Conference was failed. McDonald, Prime Minister of British government, announced the communal award where the seperate representations were to be provided to Muslims, Sikhs, Indian Christians, Anglo-Indians, Europeans and Dalits Depressed Classes. Mahatma Gandhi was completely against for these reservations as those are are Britishers idea of divide and rule policy. But Ambedkar somehow wanted that as they have minimum benefits. So, after some agreements between Ambedkar and Mahatma Gandhi. According to this historic agreement the depressed class would get 147 seats in provincial councils instead of 71 promises in the Ramsay McDonald’s award and they would get 18% of the seats in Central Assembly also. The Poona Pact was finally stamped when the Government of India act 1935 where reservation of seats for depressed class was alloted. The Government of India act 1935 replaced the term ‘depressed class’ with Scheduled Class.

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 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.

Debates in Constitutional Assembly

Constituent assembly came to existence in December 1946. Framers want to set up a welfare society where government not just protects from outside threats but also helps in social, economic development and they also wanted to give special protection for backward classes because of their past atrocities. Constituent Assembly had different committees for different areas.

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.

But nothing like this happened even for today.

After Independence, there were several provisions made to abolish Untouchability, Titles, and also to protect educational and economic interests of the weak sections and in particular Schedules Casts and Schedules Tribes.

Representation in Services

Reservation of seats for SCs and STs in Lok Sabha and State legislatures for ten years was agreed upon. But the period has been extended from time to time. Three categories of people who deserved the benefits of Protective Discrimination: the backward class, the Scheduled castes and the Scheduled Tribes. Schedule caste and Scheduled 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.

Indira Sawhney V. Union of India

Supreme court in Indira Sawhney & Ors V. Union of India(1993) upheld the implementation of seperate reservation of other backward classes in Central government jobs, Ordered to exclude the creamy layer of other backward classes from enjoying reservation facilities, Ordered to restrict reservation within 50% limit, Declared seperate reservations for economically poor among forward classes as invalid.

This is how caste based reservations started in India. However, it has been clearly stated to abolish this reservation policy after 10 years. But it seems it not going to happen because these reservations became good topic for today’s politicians to gain votes.

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