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Historical Background-

Adhering to Article 340 of the Constitution of India, the First Backward Classes Commission, Kalelkar Commission was set up by a presidential order under the chairmanship of Kaka Kalelkar. This commission was set up for the determination of backward classes and on the basis of the report of the commission the President may specify the backward classes. The President appointed the Commission in 1952 and submitted its report in 1955.

Its terms of references were to:

§  Determine the criteria to be adopted in considering whether any sections of the people in the territory of India in addition to the SC and ST as socially and educationally backward classes, using such criteria it was to prepare a list of such classes setting out also their approximate members and their territorial distribution.

§  Investigate the conditions of all such socially and educationally backward classes and the differences under which they labour and make recommendations.

The Union Government did not accept the report. So there is no definite criteria to specify the socially and educationally backward classes on All India basis. At present, each state specifies the backward classes in its own way and on its own criteria. For the purpose of appointment in the Union Services, admission to the educational institutions run by the Union and for the purpose of Article 338(3), the Union specifies the backward classes. There is no uniformity in the classification  of socially and educationally backward classes in the country.

Meaning of Reservation-

According to Webster’s Dictionary, Reservation means, “that which is reserved, kept back, or withheld.”


Backward Class-

Article 15(4) enables the State to make special provisions for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens. There is no definition of socially backward classes of citizens.


Backward and More Backward Classification- How far valid?

In the case of Balaji  v. State of Mysore,[1] the Court held that the classification of backward classes into backward and more backward was not warranted by Article 15(4).

However, in the case of Indira Sawhney v. Union of India,[2] the Supreme Court has made it clear that the classification of backward classes into backward and more backward is constitutionally permissible.

In State of U.P  v. Pradeep Tandon,[3] the U.P Government made reservation of states in favour of the candidates from Hill and Uttarakhand areas was valid because the people inhabiting in these areas were socially and educationally  backward, but the reservation of the seats in favour of the candidate from the rural areas was held to be unconstitutional because the rural areas could not be taken as socially and educationally backward classes of citizens. The Court has expressed the view that the rural population is eighty percent of entire population of the state and eighty percent of the population cannot be a homogenous class by itself.

Limit of reservation-

In the case of M.R. Balaji v. State of Mysore,[4] the Court has held that the reservation of seats for the backward classes, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes should be less than 50% of the total seats. In this case 68% of the seats was reserved and therefore it was held to be inconsistent with Article 15(4). The facts of the case were as follows:

The Mysore Government issued an order under Article 15(4) reserving seats in the Medical and Engineering Colleges in the State. The reservation was made in the following manner- Backward Classes 28%, more backward classes 22% and Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, 18%. Thus, 68% of the seats was reserved and only 32% was available to the merit pool. The order of the Government was challenged by the candidate  who has secured more marks than those admitted but failed to get admission due to the reservation for backward classes, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes should be less than 50% of the total seats.

Conversion to Hinduism

Here, raise a question that whether a Christian, who was the original members of the Scheduled Caste can after reconversion to Hinduism, claim the benefit reservation available to the Scheduled Castes?

On this issue Guntur Medical College v. Rao Mohan,[5] is an important case. In this case the Supreme Court held that originally person, whose parents belonged to Scheduled Caste but converted to Christianity, on conversion to Hinduism, does not become automatically a member of the caste to which his parents originally belonged but he can become member of that caste if the other members of that caste accept him as a member of that caste and the caste is a Scheduled Caste, he can claim the benefit of the reservation of seats made for the Scheduled Caste.

Again, in the case of Neelima Paul v. Cochin University,[6] a girl of upper caste after marrying a boy of the Scheduled Tribes claimed the benefit of reservation available to the Scheduled Tribes. The court held that she was not entitled to the benefit of reservation available to the Scheduled Tribes.

New Dimensions of Reservation-

The Constitution (Ninety- Third Amendment) Act, 2005

By this Amendment Act a new clause (5) has been inserted in Article 15. This clause provides that nothing in this Article or in sub-clause (g) of clause (1) of Article 19 shall prevent the State from making any special provision, by law, for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for Scheduled Castes or the Scheduled Tribes in so far as such special provisions relate to their admission to educational institutions including private educational institutions, whether aided or unaided by the State, other than the minority institutions referred to in clause (1) of Article 30.

In Ashok Kumar Thakur v. Union Of  India,[7] is an Indian Public Interest litigation case challenging the conclusion of the Mandal Commision that about 52% of the total population of India belonged to Other Backward Classes classification. The Sample Survey Organization had estimated the OBC segment to be 32%.

In April 2006, the government decided to reserve nearly 27% of seats for students from the OBC segment in institutes of higher learning in India. This would have reduced the seats for a general, unreserved candidate to about 50% (after taking into account other reserved seats). The Indian parliament passed a bill to bring out an amendment in the constitution in this regard. Thakur challenged the validity of the amendments.

The Supreme Court of India in response to the PIL refused to stay the constitutional amendment but issued notice to the government. The government which had faced strong anti reservation protests on its turn stated that the reservation policy would not be implemented until a bill [The Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Bill, 2006] introduced in the parliament in August 2006 for this purpose becomes a law. The bill was later approved by the parliament.




[1] AIR 1963 SC 649

[2] AIR 1993 SC 477

[3] AIR 1975 SC 563

[4] AIR 1963 SC 649

[5] AIR 1976 SC 1904

[6] AIR 1993 AP 229

[7] AIR 2008 

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