Print Friendly, PDF & Email

50% Reservation Limit:

GS Paper 2:

Topics Covered: Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.



A UPSC aspirant has approached the Supreme Court seeking to quash the final result dated September 24, 2021 declared by UPSC for Civil Services Examination 2020 to the extent it violates the 50% reservation ceiling.


What’s the issue?

It has been argued in the petition that UPSC has recommended 34.55% candidates for appointment against the general category and 65.44% against the reserved category, completely sabotaging the merit of the general category candidates.

  • In this regard it has further been contended that only 40% of seats have been marked for appointment against the general unreserved quota, which is in violation of the 50% ceiling of reservation (as held by in Indra Sawhney vs UOI reported in (1992) Supp. (3) SCC 217).


Indra Sawhney & Others vs Union of India, 1992:

A nine-judge bench in the Indra Sawhney case (famously known as the Mandal Commission case) imposed the ceiling of 50% on total reservation.

  • The Supreme Court while upholding the 27% quota for backward classes, struck down the government notification reserving 10% government jobs for economically backward classes among the higher castes.
  • SC in the same case also upheld the principle that the combined reservation beneficiaries should not exceed 50% of India’s population.
  • The concept of ‘creamy layer’ also gained currency through this judgment and provision that reservation for backward classes should be confined to initial appointments only and not extend to promotions.


Why 50%?

The Other Backward Classes, as identified by the Mandal Commission, make up about 52% of India’s population according to the 1931 Census. The court, however, did not deal with the question of population while ruling that although reservation was fine, it must be capped.


Tamilnadu’s case:

The state’s Assembly passed the Tamil Nadu Backward Classes, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Reservation of Seats in Educational Institutions and Appointments or Posts in the Services under the State) Act, 1993 to keep its reservation limit intact at 69%.

  • The law was subsequently included into the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution through the 76th Constitution Amendment passed by Parliament in 1994.


Current Affairs


Insta Curious:

Constitution and Reservation:

77th Constitutional Amendment Act, 1995: The Indra Sawhney verdict had held there would be reservation only in initial appointments and not promotions.

  • However, addition of the article 16(4A) to the Constitution, empowered the state to make provisions for reservation in matters of promotion to SC/ST employees, if the state feels they are not adequately represented.

81st Constitutional Amendment Act, 2000: It introduced Article 16(4B), which says unfilled SC/ST quota of a particular year, when carried forward to the next year, will be treated separately and not clubbed with the regular vacancies of that year.

85th Constitutional Amendment Act, 2001: It provided for the reservation in promotion can be applied with ‘consequential seniority’ for the government servants belonging to the SCs and STs with retrospective effect from June 1995.

103rd amendment to the Constitution (2019): 10% reservation for EWS (Economically Weaker Section).

Article 335: It says that the claims of SCs and STs shall be taken into consideration constituently with the maintenance of efficiency of administration, in the making of appointments to services and posts in connection with the affairs of the Union or of a State.



Prelims Link:

  1. About the 103rd Constitutional Amendment Act.
  2. 102 CAA- overview.
  3. About Maratha Quota law.
  4. What is 9th schedule of the Indian Constitution.
  5. Indira Sawhney Judgment.

Mains Link:

Recently, a five-judge Bench set up to hear the challenge to the Maratha quota law, decided not to confine the question of reservation spilling over the 50% limit to just Maharashtra. Discuss the implications of this move.

Sources: the Hindu.