Judgment on the eligibility of Horizontal reservation candidates

Synopsis: Supreme Court in its recent judgement Saurav Yadav versus State of Uttar Pradesh, has cleared the Issue of eligibility of candidates belong to Horizontal reservation to compete for the open category seats.

The issues arise due to the difference in the implementation of horizontal reservation among different states in the open category states.

There are 2 types of reservations; 1) Vertical reservation, 2) Horizontal reservation

Vertical reservation: It is a class of reservation which provide reservation in terms of caste i.e. SC, ST, OBC and General Category.

Horizontal reservation: It is a class of reservations under Article 15(3) and 16(1), which cuts across all the caste based categories including reservation for women, differently-abled persons, freedom fighters, army veterans and other categories.

What are the Horizontal Reservation issues?

Basic issue is the assumption of critics of reservation that reservations per se are opposed to merit and compromise efficiency in public service. Therefore open category seats must be available only to the candidates belong to non-reserved categories.

  • Upholding the assumption above, few state governments excluded reserved category women from consideration in the general category.
  • This policy in effect declare the open category as a reserved category for upper castes.
  • Further, matter was worsened by the contrary judgments of High Courts:
    • Rajasthan, Bombay, Uttarakhand and Gujarat high courts approved the eligibility of horizontal reservation against ‘open or general category’.
    • Allahabad and Madhya Pradesh High Courts held that candidates from reserved categories can be adjusted only against their own categories and not against the ‘open or general category’.
  • Reservation is an instrument for identifying merit in individuals from historically marginalised communities. By excluding OBC women against general category seats, government is excluding a meritorious candidates.

Indra sawhney case

  • In Indra Sawhney case 1992, Supreme Court held that in case a reservation has been made under Article 16 (4) for the backward class and the candidate belonging to such back ward caste can compete for non-reserved post.
  • As such candidates are appointed on the basis of their own merit, their number will not be adjusted against the quota to their backward category i.e. the entire reservation quota will be intact and available in addition to those selected under open competition category.

Saurav Yadav versus State of Uttar Pradesh

  • In this case, there were 3,295 constable posts in UP in the General Category (GC) of which 188 went to women.
  • 21 applicants in the OBC female category scored more than the last female candidate selected in General Category. But in filling up of 188 GC women seats, OBC women (who scored higher) were not considered.
  • Judgment: In this case three judge bench led by Justice Uday U Lalit, ruled against the government order that candidates belonging to reserved categories like SCs, STs, and OBCs can be appointed under open or general category, if they qualified on their own merit.

Justice Ravindra Bhat’s judgment

  • Justice Bhat also made a concurring judgment, in a similar case.
  • Justice Bhat in his judgment held that there is no rule, or direction which prohibits the adjustment of socially reserved categories of women in the general category or “open category”. Therefore, the open category is not a ‘quota’, but rather available to all women and men alike.

Anil Kumar Gupta v/s State of Uttar Pradesh

  • In its judgment, the Court had made it clear that horizontal reservation ought to be generally understood in compartmentalised terms, as a nod to recognition of inequalities within each vertical category.

Vertical and horizontal reservations are methods of ensuring representation in public services. It should not be used as a tool to close the doors to open general category, even for the meritorious candidates, for which she would have been eligible without reservation.

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