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Issues of Social Justice in the Existing Indian Reservation System


“An Unaccomplished Governmental Programme”


We are living in a world where society instructs us to judge the evolution of the country by the economic wealth and the victory of a handful of individuals. Such an administration while promising a brighter future for everyone, helps only a few to stay in power unlawfully establishing their status and by ignoring the needs of those who are left behind. For thousands of years, equal opportunities were denied to the majority of the population of our country based on one’s birth. All the powerful kings who conquered Indian sub-continent were bound by Manu Shastra, the rule book of Hindu religion that prohibited education for the Shudras. Non-Brahmins were enslaved in various ways. Not only in education but also positions of power and flourishing job opportunities were denied to them.Therefore, it is significant to note that every individual or a group are treated equally notwithstanding their differences. To prohibit exploitation and to acquire a fair society, social institutions have been striving hard to establish social justice through education. Although, the modern idea of social justice is a composite equation with the foundation of a society has certain indicators which need to be accomplished. These include equal distribution/redistribution of the fund, rights with equality, multiplicity, amendments for the past wrongdoings and independent decision-making process. 


Social Justice:

Social justice has a peculiar, substantial and powerful content with a fundamental authority to bring equality in a society of unequals. Social justice did not arise in the modern era, its seeds were sowed during early times. Social justice in its structure and configuration is just not a social institution, rather it is the perspective of an individual. It has comprehensively identified that equality sits in the centre of human dignity. The requirement for equality and equity emerges in a society where the system is based on a social scale and supremacy of one group. However, social justice ensures that every individual in the society is provided with equal opportunities in all aspects such as social, economic and political. But, by providing equality will not help to treat the situation. Thus, the weak should be provided with some allowances and benefits for equality to be meaningful for them. One of the affirmative actions taken by the government comes in the form of “Reservation”. Social justice is now recognized uniquely with reservation in India which incidentally has become a political essential as well. 

Issues of Social Justice: 


India was a country with a very strong caste-based hierarchical system where the upper caste enjoyed most of the benefits while the lower caste was looked down upon. The majority of the population was backward classes, who were socially, educationally, economically and politically deprived of better opportunities. The backward classes are Scheduled castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Castes. The Constitution of India has introduced Art.46 to promote the educational and economic interest of Scheduled castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other backward classes to protect them from social injustice and all forms of ill-treatment. However, there are various obstacles faced by the backward classes in day-to-day life due to inequality in society. They are:


Problems faced by the OBCs in reservation:


In the exercise of the powers of Art.340, President may by order appoint a commission to investigate the condition of OBCs. Thus, the Mandal Commission was established in 1979 by the government of India to recognize the socially or educationally backward classes. The Mandal Commission recommended 27% reservation for the OBCs. Art.15(4) of the Indian Constitution ensures to make special provisions for the welfare of socially and educationally backward classes including their admissions in aided or unaided private educational institutions. But today are these reservation policies being benefited by the OBCs or not? The answer is “NO” because the advantages are taken away by the concept of “Creamy Layer”. Creamy layer is a title used in Indian politics to mention the relatively forward and better- educated members of the OBCs, who are not entitled to the government-sponsored educational and professional benefit programmes. Initially, the creamy layer concept was only meant for OBCs but later it was also applied to SC and ST not on the grounds of untouchability or backwardness but in promotions. This concept of the creamy layer was first introduced in landmark case Indira Sawney V. UOI (AIR 1993 SC 447): 1992 SUPP (3) SCC 217. The court upheld the execution of separate reservation for the OBCs in the Central government jobs and also ordered to remove the creamy layer of the OBCs from enjoying reservation programmes.




Conditions of Creamy layer:

1.) If the parents are working as government officials as a class 2 employee or above, then they belong to OBC creamy layer.

2.) If the parents earn more than 8 lakhs per annum, then they come under OBC creamy.

The husband/wife’s salary would not be considered for layering.

Recently, the National Commission for Backward Classes opposed including ‘salary’ in determining ‘creamy layer’ for OBC. The income bar that figures out if an OBC candidate belongs to creamy layer or not, is to be changed from ‘Gross Income’ to ‘Net Taxable Income’. This decision was opposed by NCBC as it increases the income threshold to determine the OBC creamy layer.


Why reservation is not a fundamental right?


The political parties of Tamil Nadu requested the Central government to execute 50% of reservation for backward classes in the State and All India quota seats for the medical and dental course. The petitioner claimed that they weren’t demanding for any further reservation but only to execute the existing one. To obtain justice for OBCs, a writ petition was filed under Art.32 of the Indian Constitution for violating the right to education and reservation. But Justice Rao replied that “reservation is not a fundamental right”. This was one of the most unconstitutional actions taken by the Central government. The problem is, there is only 27% reservation for OBCs although 41% of India’s population are OBCs, within which there is a division of creamy layer and non-creamy layer.


Is 10% reservation for EWS necessary?


The 103rd amendment of the Indian Constitution ensures 10% reservation for economically weaker sections of an upper caste who come under the general category (which is not reserved for any caste but applicable to SC, ST And OBC) will now be able to enjoy the benefits of reservation in the government jobs. This benefit wasn’t available for them previously. This decision proves that the government is not allowing the communities to move out of backwardness. “When the Central government could make provisions for the welfare of a forward caste then why couldn’t it make for the backward castes?”. However, social justice could not be achieved by compromising reservations.


Reservation: An unfinished agenda

The method of reservation begins with the name of “Mahatma Jyotibha Rao Phoole”, who demanded 50% reservation for the backward classes. Reservation is a system to provide education and jobs to the underprivileged based on their caste. It remains as a key to social justice. However, it has proved to be one of the most unachievable strategies to provide social equality and justice. The Reservation was supposed to establish more impartial provisions to provide education and employment for all. Anyhow, creating more opportunities for everyone to stay as the weakest relation in India’s travel towards an equitable society.


Remedy for Reservation:

Considering the above barriers, the Indian Constitution has introduced Art.15 and 16 in providing special provisions for the socially and educationally backward classes to promote equal opportunity in matters of public employment. Still, it did not create a social transformation in the society. It is only through an “Equivalent Reservation System” social justice could be achieved. Equivalent reservation policy renders opportunities in education, employment, promotion and political representation for each caste group based on their proportion in the total population of the nation/state. Both nationally and in State we follow general reservation and not a proportional reservation.



Reservation is an anti-thesis of sustainable development and justice. Due to the Brahminical supremacy and enslavement, 50% reservation for the backward classes were not fully executed. The supreme court has violated and restricted our rights. The backward classes, tribes, minorities and other Dalit organisations should be integrated throughout the nation to fight for the recovery of our rights. As a result, reservation is not a poverty upliftment programme but it is meant to equal representation for all communities.

May Justice Triumph.









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2.)    M.P. Jain, Indian Constitutional Law (8th edition, Published by Lexis Nexis)

3.)    C.N. Shankar Rao, Sociology of Indian Society (Revised edition, Published by S. Chand)

4.)    Muthuswamy and Brinda, Reservations and Concessions for SCs, STs, OBCs, etc in Government service (Published by Swamy Publishers)


5.)     Thamarai Kannan /Why caste based reservation is a logical social-justice measure/ <> accessed: 20/07/2020

6.)     Dhileepan Selvarajan /A blow against social justice/ <> accessed: 20/07/2020

7.)    /Social justice and Reservation/ 3rd chapter/ <>accessed: 21/07/2020

8.)     Rajnikant Pandey and Chandra Mohan Upadhayay /Contemporary issues in social justice/<> accessed: 21/07/2020

9.)    Mohsin Alam Bhat /Why reservation have to be about social and not economic disadvantage/ <> accessed: 21/07/2020

10.)  Parimala /Reservation-A tool for social justice/ <> accessed: 22/07/2020.