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Why in news?

A five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court held it unconstitutional to provide 100% reservation for tribal teachers in schools located in Scheduled Areas across the country.

The five-judge Bench was answering a reference made to it in 2016 on whether 100% reservation is permissible under the Constitution.

What was said in the Judgement?

  • It is an obnoxious idea that tribals only should teach the tribals.
  • Merit cannot be denied in toto by providing reservation.
  • The court held that 100% reservation is discriminatory and impermissible. The opportunity of public employment is not the prerogative of few.
  • A 100% reservation to the Scheduled Tribes has deprived Scheduled Castes and Other Backward Classes also of their due representation.
  • The court referred to the Indira Sawhney judgment, which caps reservation at 50%.

Important quote that can be used in answer – “Citizens have equal rights, and the total exclusion of others by creating an opportunity for one class is not contemplated by the founding fathers of the Constitution of India.”

Reservations in India

  • One of the avowed objectives of the Indian Constitution is the creation of an egalitarian society, including, and especially, by way of the eradication of caste and the caste system.
  • In support of this objective, several successive governments have devised various affirmative action policies to eradicate caste and support the social mobility of backward classes.
  • These measures typically include reserving seats in representative and educational institutions or public employment for members of certain classes that have been traditionally and historically marginalised.
  • However, over time, these measures have become a tool for populism and to appease certain communities.
  • Therefore, every time such a measure is introduced, it has resulted in dividing public opinion and caused widespread controversy.

Indra Sawhney v. Union of India, (1992)

  • The Indra Sawhney case was decided by a nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court in 1992.
  • This judgement upheld that the Mandal Commission’s 27 percent quota for Backward classes.
  • The case is famous for decisively laying down several landmark propositions such as 50% threshold in reservations, the bar against reservations in certain types of posts, the exclusion of ‘creamy layer’ etc.

Creamy Layer Chronology

  1. In 1980, the Mandal Commission report recommended to provide 27% reservation to Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in jobs.
  2. In 1990, the V P Singh Government declared such reservation of 27% in government jobs for the OBCs.
  3. In 1991, the Narasimha Rao Government introduced a change in order to give preference to the poorer sections among the OBCs while granting the 27% quota.
  4. In the Indra Sawhney judgment (1992), the Court upheld the government’s move and proclaimed that the advanced sections among the OBCs (i.e, the creamy layer) must be excluded from the list of beneficiaries of reservation. It also held that the concept of creamy layer must be excluded for SCs & STs.
December 2023