Reservation and Quota Systems
Though the Article.15(1) of the Constitution says that the “State shall not discriminate any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them”, it also provides for compensatory or protective discrimination in favour of certain sections of the disadvantaged people. Article 15(4) of the Constitution stipulates that notwithstanding the provision stated above, the State can make “special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes”.
Scheduled Castes (SC) and Tribes (STREAM) constitute approximately 22.5% of the country’s population. Accordingly, a pro-rata reservation of 22.5% (SC 15% and ST 7.5%) has been made for them in educational institutions which come under the administrative control of the Ministry of Human Resource Development and other Central Ministries. Similar reservations, directly proportional to their population, have also been provided by the State Governments and Union Territory Administrations. SC and ST students are also entitled to relaxation in respect of the upper age limit (generally 5 years) as well as concession of lower cut-off qualifying marks (5-10%).
Besides reservation for SC and ST Candidates, seats are also reserved for other categories of the backward community (OBC). In 1978, the Second Backward Classes Commission under the Chairmanship of B.P. Mandal (more well-known as the Mandal Commission) was set up. The Commission, which submitted its report in 1980, recommended the reservation of 27% of the seats in all scientific, technical and professional institutions run by the Central as well as State Governments for other backward communities (OBCs).
It further recommended that those States which have already reserved more than 27% seats for OBC students would remain unaffected by this recommendation. The Government of India implemented the recommendations in 1990 leading to violent protests. The Supreme Court had earlier ruled that the total percentage of reservation should not exceed 50% of the seats. While giving its assent to the Government order for implementation of the recommendations of the Mandal commission report, the Supreme Court not only limited overall reservation to 50%, but also inserted an economic exclusion clause under the name of “creamy layer”. It later reiterated its decision of fixing the upper limit while disallowing the pleas of the Governments of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka from increasing the quota beyond 50%.
However, reservation continues to be a controversial social and political issue and has resulted in many protracted legal disputes and multitude of legal interpretations. In August 1999, the Supreme Court ruled that for admissions at the super-speciality level in medicine and engineering faculties, no special provisions like reservations for SCs, STs and BCs were permissible. Even among the quota for reservations, there are also sub-quotas. For example, in Andhra Pradesh, 15% of the seats in each course of study reserved for Scheduled Castes are in turn allotted, in proportion to their population, to four categories of SCs classified as A, B, C and D. Similarly, 25% of the seats reserved for Backward Classes are allocated to four categories of BCs – labelled as A, B, C and D.
The following table reflects the typical caste-based reservation profile:
|SC and SC Converts to Buddhism||13.0%|
|Nomadic Tribes (NTI)||2.5%|
|Nomadic Tribes (NT2)||3.5%|
|Nomadic Tribes (NT3)||2.0%|
Besides caste based reservations, there are also varieties of reservation and quota system, for example, Non-resident Indians (5%), Women (30%), Physically handicapped, Migrants from J & K, NCC Quota, Sports Quota, Anglo-Indian Community, Children of Political Sufferers, Children of Defence personnel, Children of Ex servicemen, Government of India Nominees.
Article 30(1) of the Indian Constitution provides that “all minorities whether based on religion or language shall have the right to establish and administer educational institution of their choice”. Many such institutions have been established by the minority communities in a number of states. According to a Supreme Court ruling in the case St. Stephen’s College vs University of Delhi (AIR 1992 SC 1630) there have to be two categories for admissions in minority educational institutions viz., Category 1-50% of he seats for candidates belonging to the minority community which has established the institution and Category II-50% of the seats for candidates for “communities other than the minority community” which owns the institution. In all States admissions are regulated through the state-level common entrance tests.