Working Paper
The legal basis for affirmative action in India

The affirmative action policy in India came into practice because of the generations of struggle undergone by the untouchable castes and other backward classes, who were historically excluded from education and administration. As society changed, it was inevitable that the vulnerable groups who had so far been forgotten in terms of social justice should be ‘included’.

However, this paper finds that, instead of recognizing this need the judiciary continued to apply illogical limitations and age-old precedents that disrupted the implementation of affirmative action.

Although the legal basis of affirmative action comes from the Constitution of India itself, which provides for reservation and enables States to make laws to that end, judicial interference has necessitated ongoing legislative changes to keep the needed affirmative action on track.

Progress has been made, but it is often a case of ‘two steps forward, one step back’, and many issues, such as the ceiling on reservations and the categories to be included in it, remain to be resolved.