In 1979, the Morarji Desai Government appointed the Second Backward Classes Commission under the chairmanship of B.P. Mandal, a Member of Parliament, in terms of Article 340 of the Constitution to investigate the conditions of the socially and educationally backward classes and suggest measures for their advancement. The commission submitted its report in 1980 and identified as many as 3743 castes as socially and educationally backward classes. They constitute nearly 52% component of the population, excluding the scheduled castes (SCs) and the scheduled tribes (STs). The commission recommended for reservation of 27% government jobs for the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) so that the total reservation for all ((SCs, STs and OBCs) amounts to 50%.7 It was after ten years in 1990 that the V.P. Singh Government declared reservation of 27% government jobs for the OBCs. Again in 1991, the Narasimha Rao Government introduced two changes: (a) preference to the poorer sections among the OBCs in the 27% quota, i.e., adoption of the economic criteria in granting reservation, and (b) reservation of another 10% of jobs for poorer (economically backward) sections of higher castes who are not covered by any existing schemes of reservation.
In the famous Mandal case (1992), the scope and extent of Article 16(4), which provides for reservation of jobs in favour of backward classes, has been examined thoroughly by the Supreme Court. Though the Court has rejected the additional reservation of 10% for poorer sections of higher castes, it upheld the constitutional validity of 27% reservation for the OBCs with certain conditions, viz,
- The advanced sections among the OBCs (the creamy layer) should be excluded from the list of beneficiaries of reservation.
- No reservation in promotions; reservation should be confined to initial appointments only. Any existing reservation in promotions can continue for five years only (i.e., upto 1997).
- The total reserved quota should not exceed 50% except in some extraordinary situations. This rule should be applied every year.
- The ‘carry forward rule’ in case of unfilled (backlog) vacancies is valid. But it should not violate 50% rule.
- A permanent statutory body should be established to examine complaints of over-inclusion and under-inclusion in the list of OBCs.
With regard to the above rulings of the Supreme Court, the government has taken the following actions:
- Ram Nandan Committee was appointed to identify the creamy layer among the OBCs. It submitted its report in 1993, which was accepted.
- National Commission for Backward Classes was established in 1993 by an act of Parliament. Its mandate was to examine the complaints of under-inclusion, over-inclusion or non-inclusion of any class of citizens in the list of backward classes for the purpose of job reservation. Later, the 102nd Amendment Act of 2018 conferred a constitutional status on the commission and also enlarged its functions. For this purpose, the amendment inserted a new Article 338-B in the constitution.
- In order to nullify the ruling with regard to reservation in promotions, the 77th Amendment Act was enacted in 1995. It added a new provision in Article 16 that empowers the State to provide for reservation in promotions of any services under the State in favour of the SCs and STs that are not adequately represented in the state services. Again, the 85th Amendment Act of 2001 provides for ‘consequential seniority’ in the case of promotion by virtue of rule of reservation for the government servants belonging to the SCs and STs with retrospective effect from June 1995.
- The ruling with regard to backlog vacancies was nullified by the 81st Amendment Act of 2000. It added another new provision in Article 16 that empowers the State to consider the unfilled reserved vacancies of a year as a separate class of vacancies to be filled up in any succeeding year or years. Such class of vacancies are not to be combined with the vacancies of the year in which they are being filled up to determine the ceiling of 50% reservation on total number of vacancies of that year. In brief, it ends the 50% ceiling on reservation in backlog vacancies.
- The 76th Amendment Act of 1994 has placed the Tamil Nadu Reservations Act of 1994 in the Ninth Schedule to protect it from judicial review as it provided for 69 per cent of reservation, far exceeding the 50 per cent ceiling.