TCN special: Misra Commission report excerpts- Part 17

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Misra Commission report excerpts– home page

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Chapter 8


… owing to historical and traditional reasons certain classes of Indian citizens are under severe social and economic disabilities that they cannot effectively enjoy either equality of status or of opportunity. Therefore, the Constitution accords to these weaker sections of society protective discrimination in various Articles including Article 15(4). This clause empowers the State, notwithstanding anything to the contrary in Articles 15(1) and 29(2) to make special reservation for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for SCs and STs.

Reservation is an affirmative action taken by the State to remove the persistent or present and continuing effect of past discrimination on particular segments of the Society to:

(i) life the ‘limitation on access to equal opportunities’;
(ii) grant opportunity for full participation in the governance of the society;
(iii) overcome substantial chronic under-representation of a social group; and
(iv) serve/achieve the important constitutional/governmental objectives.

Historical Background of Reservation

Reservation during Pre-Independence Period

In 1927 in Madras Presidency, Government reserved 5 of every 12 jobs for non-Brahmin Hindus, 2 each for Brahmins, Christians and Muslims and 1 for others. A few princely States like Baroda, Travancore and Kolhapur also introduced similar provisions. In Kolhapur, (Maharashtra) Shahuji Maharaj reserved 50 percent of the vacant seats in his administration for non-Brahmins.

While the British had earlier reserved seats, only in legislative bodies, in 1943, reservations in services came into effect. Accordingly, 8.33 percent posts against direct recruitment made through open competition were reserved for Scheduled Castes. These instructions issued in 1943 can be called as origin of reservation in government services.

Reservation During Post-Independence Period

Reservation in Services in Favour of SCs and STs

SC reservation is also available to Sikhs and Buddhists and ST to all minorities as ST identity is caste/religion neutral.

Reservation in Services in Favour of Other Backward Classes (OBCs)

The Princely State of Mysore instituted a system in which all communities other than Brahmins were denominated “Backward Classes” from 1918 and places were reserved for them in colleges and State services. In independent India, several States implemented the reservation in services and admissions in educational institutions in favour of Backward Classes much earlier that the Govt. of India.

The Government of India took initiatives for providing reservation to the Backward Classes immediately after the commencement of the Constitution and first Backward Classes Commission, also known as Kaka Kalelkar Commission was constituted in 1953. The Commission submitted its report in 1955. Though the Commission recognized a number of causes for social and educational backwardness yet, it eventually used the criterion of caste to identify socially and educationally backward classes. The Commission listed 2399 Castes as socially and educationally backwards and recommended various welfare measures for OBCs inclusing reservation in govt. services and educational institutions. The Central Govt. did not accept its recommendations because the caste-based reservations were considered retrograde step.

In 1979, the Second Backward Classes Commission popularly known as Mandal Commission, was constituted under Article 340 of the Constitution to investigate the conditions of socially and educationally backward classes and to determine the criteria for defining the socially and educationally backward classes and to examine the desirability or otherwise of making provision for the reservation in favour of such backward classes. The commission submitted its report to the Government on 31st Dec. 1980. The Commission used 1931 census data and 11 (eleven) indicators, grouped under social, educational and economic criteria for identifying backward classes.

Recommendations of the Second Backward Classes Commission (Mandal Report) were implemented by the Govt. of India on August 13, 1990 …

The provisions for reservation in services in favour of SCs/STs and OBCs also include minorities although in the absence of data it is not possible to assess the impact of such a reservation on religious minorities.

Impact of Reservation Policy in Employment and Education

… the policy of reservation had a salutary effect in terms of induction of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes into public sector employment and in education institutions.

Even if it is conceded for argument sake that reservation has an adverse impact, such an impact is likely to be minimal and can be remedied with special interventions such as training etc. In any case in the context of the objectives that such reservation serves, it is an acceptable policy.

Reservation did not provide equal opportunities within each group/community to all of beneficiaries. Consequently, different castes and tribes within a group/community have not benefitted from reservation equally.

Reservation for Minorities has been provided by the State Governments of Kerala and Karnataka.

The Government of Andhra Pradesh also passed an Act providing 5 percent reservation for Muslims.

… the Commission has considered the following viewpoints:

The basic criteria for reservation should be socio-economic backwardness with foolproof arrangement of issue of certificates. In fact, religion or caste should not be the basis of Reservation. Also Article 16(4) should be the basis of providing reservation benefit to minority groups who are socio-economically backward class of citizens.

There should be no need for reservation or preferential treatment once equality is achieved. In fact, it should be temporary in concept, limited in duration, conditional in application and specific in object. Any attempt to perpetuate reservation and upset the constitutional mandate of equality is destructive of liberty and fraternity and all the basic values enshrined in the Constitution.

The sooner the need for reservation is brought to an end, the better it would be for the nation as a whole. The sooner we redressed all disabilities and wiped out all traces of historical discrimination, and stopped identifying classed of citizens by the stereo-typed, stigmatized and ignominious label of backwardness, the stronger, healthier and better united we will emerge as a nation founded on diverse customs, practices, religions and languages but knitted together by innumerable binding strands of common culture and tradition.

… if an individual has benefitted from the reservation in the matter of employment, it may be worthwhile to consider his next generation for educational benefits only. … it is necessary to step forward, remove differential approach based on caste, class, religion, and to adopt uniform strategies for the socially, economically and educationally poor. Reservation should be limited to them.

… the entire system of reservation as also of the SC, ST, OBC Lists need to be overhauled. Since, BPL Lists are being prepared on the basis of social/educational and economic criteria, these are more scientific.

While there is a single central policy on reservation, different states in India have devised their own policies and many of these differ significantly from the Central policy. To ensure proper implementation of reservation system, constitution of separate body- High Powered Commission is recommended.