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Vertical and Horizontal Reservations

  • 08 Jan 2021
  • 6 min read

Why in News

Recently, the Supreme Court (SC), in a case, has clarified the position of law on the interplay of vertical and horizontal reservations.

Key Points

  • Vertical Reservation:
  • Horizontal Reservation:
    • It refers to the equal opportunity provided to other categories of beneficiaries such as women, veterans, the transgender community, and individuals with disabilities, cutting through the vertical categories.
    • Example: Article 15 (3) of the Constitution contemplates horizontal reservation.
  • Application of Reservations:
    • The horizontal quota is applied separately to each vertical category, and not across the board.
    • For example, if women have 50% horizontal quota, then half of the selected candidates will have to necessarily be women in each vertical quota category i.e., half of all selected Scheduled Caste candidates will have to be women, half of the unreserved or general category will have to be women, and so on.
  • The Case:
    • Saurav Yadav versus State of Uttar Pradesh 2020 dealt with issues arising from the way different classes of reservation were to be applied in the selection process to fill posts of constables in the state.
    • The Uttar Pradesh government’s policy was to restrict and contain reserved category candidates to their categories, even when they had secured higher grades.
  • SC’s Ruling:
    • The court ruled against the Uttar Pradesh government, holding that if a person belonging to an intersection of vertical-horizontal reserved category had secured scores high enough to qualify without the vertical reservation, the person would be counted as qualifying without the vertical reservation, and cannot be excluded from the horizontal quota in the general category.
    • The court said Uttar Pradesh Government's argument meant that it was ensuring that the general category was ‘reserved’ for upper castes.
  • Significance:
    • The ruling will give clarity on reservation and make it easier for governments to implement and apply reservation.
    • More needy scheduled caste, scheduled tribes and other backward class candidates will be benefited if high scoring candidates are recruited under general category.


  • Reservation is a form of positive discrimination, created to promote equality among marginalised sections, so as to protect them from social and historical injustice.
  • Generally, it means giving preferential treatment to marginalised sections of society in employment and access to education.
  • It was also originally developed to correct years of discrimination and to give a boost to disadvantaged groups.
  • In India, people have been historically discriminated against on the basis of caste.

Constitutional Provisions Governing Reservation in India

  • Article 15(3) allows protective discrimination in favour of women.
  • Article 15(4) and 16(4) of the Constitution enabled the State and Central Governments to reserve seats in government services for the members of the SC and ST.
  • The Constitution was amended by the Constitution (77th Amendment) Act, 1995 and a new clause (4A) was inserted in Article 16 to enable the government to provide reservation in promotion.
  • Later, clause (4A) was modified by the Constitution (85th Amendment) Act, 2001 to provide consequential seniority to SC and ST candidates promoted by giving reservation.
  • Constitutional 81st Amendment Act, 2000 inserted Article 16 (4 B) which enables the state to fill the unfilled vacancies of a year which are reserved for SCs/STs in the succeeding year, thereby nullifying the ceiling of fifty percent reservation on total number of vacancies of that year.
  • Article 330 and 332 provides for specific representation through reservation of seats for SCs and STs in the Parliament and in the State Legislative Assemblies respectively.
  • Article 243D provides reservation of seats for SCs and STs in every Panchayat.
    • It also provides for the reservation of not less than one-third of the total number of seats for women (including the number of seats reserved for women belonging to the SCs and STs).
  • Article 233T provides reservation of seats for SCs and STs in every Municipality.
  • Article 335 of the Constitution says that the claims of SCs and STs shall be taken into consideration constituently with the maintenance of efficacy of the administration.


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