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Bihar Reservation Laws


The Bihar Assembly recently passed Reservation Laws, elevating the quota for jobs and education to 75%, surpassing the 50% limit set by the Supreme Court. This development has ignited discussions on the acceptable boundaries of reservations in India, especially in light of the Supreme Court’s precedent in the Mandal Commission case (Indra Sawhney, 1992).


GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key Highlights of Bihar Reservation Laws
  2. Understanding the 50% Rule
  3. Constitutional Amendments and Reservation Policies in India: A Comprehensive Overview
  4. Way Forward

Key Highlights of Bihar Reservation Laws

Legislation Details:
  • Bihar Reservation of Vacancies in Posts and Services (for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Other Backward Classes) Amendment Act-2023 and Bihar (in admission in educational institutions) Reservation Amendment Act, 2023.
Revised Reservation Quotas:
  • Total reservation increased to 65%, comprising 20% for Scheduled Castes, 2% for Scheduled Tribes, 18% for Backward Classes, and 25% for Extremely Backward Classes.
  • Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) approved under the Central Act to continue with 10% reservation.

Understanding the 50% Rule:

Historical Context:

  • The Supreme Court’s longstanding principle limits reservations to 50% of total seats or positions.

Evolution of Perspective:

  • Initially established in the 1963 M.R. In The Balaji case, reservations were considered an “exception” under the constitutional framework.
  • In 1976, reservations were recognized as a component of equality, but the 50% limit persisted.

Mandal Commission Case (1990):

  • A nine-judge bench reaffirmed the 50% limit, considering it a binding rule.
  • Exceptions allowed for specific circumstances, particularly for marginalized communities, regardless of geographical location.

Recent Developments:

  • The 103rd Constitutional Amendment permits an additional 10% reservation for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS).
  • The 50% limit applies only to non-EWS reservations, allowing States to reserve a total of 60% of seats/posts.
Other States Crossing the Limit:
  • Chhattisgarh (72%), Tamil Nadu (69%, under a 1994 Act protected under the ninth Schedule of the Constitution), and northeastern States like Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Nagaland (80% each) have exceeded the 50% limit.
  • Lakshadweep has 100% reservations for Scheduled Tribes.
  • Previous attempts by Maharashtra and Rajasthan to exceed the limit were struck down by the courts.

Constitutional Amendments and Reservation Policies in India: A Comprehensive Overview

77th Constitutional Amendment Act, 1995:
  • Indra Sawhney Verdict:
    • Reserved only for initial appointments, not promotions.
  • Addition of Article 16(4A):
    • Empowered states to provide promotion reservations for SC/ST employees if underrepresented.
81st Constitutional Amendment Act, 2000:
  • Introduction of Article 16(4B):
    • Unfilled SC/ST quota carried forward treated separately from regular vacancies in the next year.
85th Constitutional Amendment Act, 2001:
  • Reservation in Promotion with ‘Consequential Seniority’:
    • Applied retrospectively from June 1995 for government servants from SCs and STs.
103rd Amendment to the Constitution (2019):
  • 10% Reservation for EWS:
    • Introduced reservation for Economically Weaker Sections.
Article 335:
  • Consideration of SC/ST Claims:
    • SCs and STs claims considered with the maintenance of administrative efficiency.

Way Forward:

  • Reevaluation of 50% Reservation Cap:
    • Courts urged to reconsider the cap, considering evolving social dynamics and equity principles.
  • Expansion of Exceptions:
    • Deliberation on extending exceptions beyond social exclusion to include broader criteria for historically disadvantaged communities, regardless of geography.
  • Comprehensive Review of Reservation Policies:
    • Detailed assessment of existing reservation policies, examining their effectiveness, impact, and alignment with current societal needs.

-Source: The Hindu

February 2024