Implementation issues in 10%
reservation (The Hindu)
Mains Paper 2: Polity
Prelims level: EWS
Mains level: Basic structure of Indian constitution
- A new Constitution amendment provides 10% reservation to
individuals from economically weaker sections (EWS) in the general category
for government jobs and educational institutions in India. This law raises
several implementation questions.
- Under the law, EWS applicants may even find it harder to obtain
Unreserved to reserved
- Until now, India’s main reserve-eligible groups have been
Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Other Backward Classes. In job and
university assignments, there is a widespread tradition of first assigning a
reserved category applicant to an unreserved position if he or she qualifies
on the basis of merit alone.
- When unreserved positions are exhausted, a reserved category
applicant may then be considered for a reserved position.
- A meritorious reserved candidate (MRC) is a reserved category
applicant, who is tentatively assigned to an unreserved position.
- When the assignment involves multiple types of jobs or
universities, the existence of MRCs raises two important questions.
- One, can an MRC move to a reserve position for a more preferred
job or university place if he or she is tentatively holding a less preferred
- Two, if such movement is allowed, what happens to the newly
- A 2004 Supreme Court decision in Anurag Patel v. U.P. Public
Service Commission mandates that an MRC is entitled to move or “migrate” to
the more preferred assignment.
- A 2010 Supreme Court decision in Union of India v. Ramesh Ram &
Ors answers the second question for the case of public sector job
- It specifies that the newly vacated position is to be given to a
candidate from the general category, who is not eligible for any
- That is, even if there is a more deserving reserved category
applicant say, another MRC who received a less preferred position the newly
available unreserved position can go to a potentially lower-scoring
applicant from the general category.
- Therefore, one unintended consequence of this judgment is that the
cut-off score for reserved category candidates can be higher than the
cut-off score for the general category.
- At present, a small fraction of unreserved positions are
tentatively assigned to reserved category applicants.
- This means that the number of meritorious reserved candidates is
relatively modest compared to the number of unreserved positions.
- But with the new EWS reservation amendment, a large fraction of
general category applicants are expected to qualify as economically weak.
- This means that a large share of unreserved positions will be
tentatively assigned to the EWS category.
- As a result, there will be many more meritorious reserved
candidates. And the positions they vacate due to migration are to be offered
to the general category candidates who do not qualify for EWS reservation
due to Ramesh Ram.
- This may result in a reduction in the number of positions offered
to those in the EWS category.
Horizontal or vertical?
- Another implementation challenge with the new amendment is that
the new law does not explicitly state whether the new EWS reservation is
horizontal or vertical.
- This is despite the clear distinction made in the landmark
judgment in Indra Sawhney v. Union of India (1992).
- A horizontal reservation is a ‘minimum guarantee’, which only
binds when there are not enough EWS applicants who receive a position on the
basis of their merit score alone; if so, the bottom-ranked general category
selections are knocked out by the top-ranked unselected EWS candidates.
- With a large number expected to qualify for EWS, the 10% minimum
guarantee will already be achieved essentially in all applications. This
means the policy, if applied horizontally, will virtually have no effect.
- A vertical reservation, on the other hand, is an ‘over and beyond’
- This means that if an applicant obtains a position on the basis of
his or her merit score without the benefit of the reservation, it does not
reduce the number of reserved positions.
- This important distinction appears not to have been a part of
discussions leading up to the passage of the law.
- A government memo suggests that the new EWS reservation might be
vertical, but it is important that this issue be clarified.
- Lack of clarity on implementation opens up possibilities to
distort or even manipulate outcomes, undermining policy goals.
- It can confuse the public and keep university or job assignments
in limbo for years as courts process legal challenges.
- India’s new EWS reservation policy is heading in this direction
unless these implementation issues are addressed head-on.
Q.1) Which of the following powers is/are enjoyed by Prime Minister in
relation to the Parliament?
1. He can dissolve the Lok Sabha at any time.
2. The President summons and prorogues sessions of the Parliament on his advice.
Select the correct answer using the code given below.
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2
Q.1) A well-designed assignment mechanism is vital for the quota for
economically weaker sections to work. Comment.