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. 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.