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50% Reservation Limit

  • IAS NEXT, Lucknow
  • 24, Jan 2022
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A UPSC aspirant has approached the Supreme Court seeking to quash the final result dated September 24, 2021 declared by UPSC for Civil Services Examination 2020 to the extent it violates the 50% reservation ceiling.

What’s the issue?

It has been argued in the petition that UPSC has recommended 34.55% candidates for appointment against the general category and 65.44% against the reserved category, completely sabotaging the merit of the general category candidates.

  • In this regard it has further been contended that only 40% of seats have been marked for appointment against the general unreserved quota, which is in violation of the 50% ceiling of reservation (as held by in Indra Sawhney vs UOI reported in (1992) Supp. (3) SCC 217).

Indra Sawhney & Others vs Union of India, 1992:

A nine-judge bench in the Indra Sawhney case (famously known as the Mandal Commission case) imposed the ceiling of 50% on total reservation.

  • The Supreme Court while upholding the 27% quota for backward classes, struck down the government notification reserving 10% government jobs for economically backward classes among the higher castes.
  • SC in the same case also upheld the principle that the combined reservation beneficiaries should not exceed 50% of India’s population.
  • The concept of ‘creamy layer’ also gained currency through this judgment and provision that reservation for backward classes should be confined to initial appointments only and not extend to promotions. 

Why 50%?

The Other Backward Classes, as identified by the Mandal Commission, make up about 52% of India’s population according to the 1931 Census. The court, however, did not deal with the question of population while ruling that although reservation was fine, it must be capped.

Tamilnadu’s case:

The state’s Assembly passed the Tamil Nadu Backward Classes, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Reservation of Seats in Educational Institutions and Appointments or Posts in the Services under the State) Act, 1993 to keep its reservation limit intact at 69%.

  • The law was subsequently included into the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution through the 76th Constitution Amendment passed by Parliament in 1994.