Photo of Aditya Mehta

Partner in the Dispute Resolution Team at the Mumbai office of Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas. Aditya has extensive experience across a wide range of disputes, both of a general commercial nature as well as public and regulatory disputes. His experience spans numerous sectors, including financial regulation, sports, local government, planning and environment and public sector projects. Aditya regularly appears before various Courts, Tribunals and Regulatory Authorities. He can be reached at aditya.mehta@cyrilshroff.com

Image credit: Scroll.in, September 26, 2017

Published here is Part II of the blog piece on the Indra Sawhney Case, which examines in-depth, the case of Indra Sawhney, the use of ‘caste’ as a factor in determining backwardness for the purpose of reservation, and the delicate balance between the needs of the society and the constitutional vision.  

We hope you enjoy reading this as much as we have enjoyed putting this together.


II.  The Mandal Commission and the case of Indra Sawhney

A. The Mandal Commission and its Recommendations

In the year 1979, the Second Backward Classes Commission (Mandal Commission) was set up which was tasked with, inter alia, determining the criteria for defining the socially and educationally backward classes. After an exhaustive survey, the Mandal Commission identified 52% of the Indian population as “Socially and Economically Backward Classes” (SEBCs). Subsequently, it recommended a 27% reservation for SEBCs in addition to the previously existing 22.5% reservation for SC/STs.

In the year 1990, Prime Minister V.P. Singh announced that his government would implement reservations on the basis of the recommendations of the Mandal Commission.[1] Two office memoranda, O.M. No. 36012/13/90-Estt (SCT) dated August 13, 1990 as amended by O.M. No. 36012/13/90-Estt(SCT) dated September 25, 1990 sought to enforce these recommendations. The decision sparked widespread controversy and led to thousands of students coming out onto the streets to protest against the decision. There was a complete breakdown of law and order and some students even immolated themselves.[2]


Continue Reading

Image credit: Scroll.in, September 26, 2017

This is the third blog piece in our series entitled “Those Were the Days”, which is published monthly. 

This is a two-part piece which analyses the Indra Sawhney Case – a case that is famous for both settling several issues and unsettling several others in the great Indian backward-class-reservation jurisprudence. Published here is Part I of the piece, which examines the legal history of affirmative action in India.   

We hope you enjoy reading this as much as we have enjoyed putting this together.


The “Mandal Commission Report” and the controversy that followed it, is etched in the memory of every Indian. By upholding the implementation of the Mandal Commission Report, the Apex Court judgment in the case of Indra Sawhney v. Union of India, established a central role for itself in every debate on the sensitive issue of reservations in India.

One of the avowed objectives of the Indian Constitution is the creation of an egalitarian society, including, and especially, by way of the eradication of caste and the caste system. In support of this objective, several successive governments have devised various affirmative action policies to eradicate caste and support the social mobility of backward classes. These measures typically include reserving seats in representative and educational institutions or public employment for members of certain classes that have been traditionally and historically marginalised. However, over time, these measures have become a tool for populism and to appease certain communities. Therefore, every time such a measure is introduced, it has resulted in dividing public opinion and caused widespread controversy. On some occasions, this divide has escalated into public demonstrations and even riots, for or against reservation.[1]

When these hotly contested measures have come up for adjudication, the judiciary’s role has not been easy; it has to account for social realities, while simultaneously grounding its decision within the sacred framework of the Constitution. One recurrent controversy that has arisen on multiple occasions before the Apex Court is the criteria for determining backwardness in order to qualify for reservation. There have been several cases that directly deal with this question. Of these, the most significant is the 1992 decision of by the Supreme Court in Indra Sawhney v. Union of India, (1992) Supp. (3) SCC 217 [2] (Indra Sawhney).


Continue Reading