The case of Indra Sawhney & Others v. Union of India, also known as the Mandal Commission case, is a landmark judgement by the Supreme Court of India, delivered in 1992. This case is particularly significant for its detailed examination and interpretation of the concept of reservations in India, especially in the context of government jobs and educational institutions.
The case arose from the recommendations of the Mandal Commission, which was established in 1979 to identify socially and educationally backward classes and recommend measures for their advancement. The Commission recommended that 27% of government jobs be reserved for Other Backward Classes (OBCs), in addition to the existing reservations for Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs).
The key legal issues revolved around the constitutional validity of providing reservations for OBCs and the definition and identification of "backward classes." Another significant issue was whether such reservations violated the right to equality guaranteed under Article 14 of the Indian Constitution.
Supreme Court Judgment:
- Upholding Reservations for OBCs: The Supreme Court upheld the implementation of 27% reservation for OBCs, stating that it was in line with the constitutional mandate to promote social justice.
- Defining 'Creamy Layer': The court introduced the concept of the 'creamy layer', excluding the more advanced members of the OBCs from availing of the benefits of reservations.
- Cap on Total Reservations: The court held that the total quantum of reservations should not exceed 50% of the available positions, to balance the need for affirmative action with the principle of equal opportunity.
- No Reservation in Promotions: It was ruled that reservations in promotions were not permissible under the Constitution.
- Economic Criteria: The court observed that poverty, not caste, should be the basis for determining economic backwardness.
Significance of the Judgment:
1. Balancing Affirmative Action and Equality: The judgement was crucial in balancing the need for affirmative action for backward classes with the right to equality for all citizens.
2. Concept of Creamy Layer: The introduction of the 'creamy layer' criterion was a significant step in ensuring that the benefits of reservations reached the most deserving sections within the OBCs.
3. Framework for Social Justice: The judgement provided a comprehensive framework for the implementation of social justice measures in India.
4. Impact on Reservation Policies: This judgement has had a lasting impact on reservation policies in India, guiding subsequent legislation and policies on the subject.
The Indra Sawhney case is a seminal judgement in the field of Indian constitutional law and social justice. It played a critical role in shaping the contours of the reservation policy in India, balancing the objectives of equality and social justice enshrined in the Constitution.
For more detailed information on this case, you can refer to resources like [Indian Kanoon](https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1363234/) or academic articles that discuss its implications.