Vertical and Horizontal Reservations

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : May 5, 2022, 10:12

India is a vast country. It is rich in its cultural heritage and natural resources. But the irony is that this nation has failed to make optimum use of its resources. It has been home to several civilizations which have prospered and perished. The glory of the past has been buried beneath mounds of ruins, but they have left their indelible marks on the life and culture of India. Unfortunately, however, some of these legacies have become a hindrance to our progress.

Two significant remnants of a problematic mindset are castes and classes, posing substantial obstacles in the path towards national integration and unity. After independence, in the first step towards social justice, GOI introduced reservations for SC/ST/OBCs in education and public employment through constitutional amendments in the 1950s. Many thinkers have criticized these reservations, and political leaders on various grounds, Vertical and Horizontal Reservations like horizontal reservations are based on caste (birth) rather than merit.

What is Reservation?

Reservation in India refers to affirmative action practised by the government of India to improve the backwardness of certain castes, communities, and religious minorities. Currently, two types of reservations exist in India, i.e., horizontal and vertical reservations.

The scheduled castes (SCs), scheduled tribes (STs), and other backward classes (OBCs) are the primary beneficiaries of the reservation policies under Indian law.

Significance of Reservation

The reservation policy in India is a policy that provides for preferential treatment of certain castes and tribes in Indian society. It is a system of positive discrimination. The Indian government has implemented the procedure to ensure that certain castes, who have been lagging in Indian culture for various reasons, can access government jobs and higher education.

The question of who merits inclusion in such lists has been a subject of intense political debate in India.

The Supreme Court of India directed that reservations should be provided for SC/ST/OBC only if they are socially and educationally backwards and do not exceed 50% of overall seats available. Subsequently, the Mandal Commission was set up to consider whether other sections merit similar quotas based on economic criteria.

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Vertical reservation and Horizontal reservation

There are two types of reservations under the reservation policy in India: Vertical reservation and Horizontal reservation. Let us look at the two in detail -

Horizontal Reservation

Horizontal reservation is a form of affirmative action that seeks to promote the inclusion of socially and economically backward groups by guaranteeing them a fixed proportion of positions in employment, education, and representation at the political level.

Since these reservations are proportional to the population of a particular section, they do not affect the relative position of different areas vis-a-vis each other. For example, if there is a 25% reservation for lower castes (SC/ST/OBC) in central government jobs, it will be 25% for every post created by the government. The total number of reserved seats will depend on the number of posts made.

Such groups include:

  • Children of veterans who are serving in the armed forces retired or killed in action
  • Disabled persons
  • Widows and unmarried women
  • People from rural areas

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Vertical Reservation

Vertical reservation is a form that seeks to uplift socially or economically underprivileged groups. Under this type of reservation, the state creates separate classes or categories within an educational institution or service and reserves seats in those categories for the section which is being uplifted. In this type of reservation, there is no guarantee that members belonging to a particular group will get one specific seat every time an opportunity arises.

The Constitution of India provides for reservation in education and employment to citizens' socially and educationally backward classes (SEBCs). However, right from the beginning, this provision has been facing constitutional challenges to the extent of being ultra vires in Articles 15 and 16 of the Constitution.

Vertical and Horizontal Reservation is the need of the hour, which can ensure overall reservation for the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Other Backward Classes. This will help in eliminating the inequality between the upper castes and lower castes in our country.

Vertical reservation and Horizontal Reservations Significance

The policy of reservation that is in place in India is an example of positive discrimination. It gives preferential treatment to certain groups in the society in order to support and aid the groups that have been lagging in many aspects due to different reasons.

Having such a policy in place would help these groups access higher education and government jobs, which were previously out of their prospects.

The debate arises in society and the political field when the question of who deserves such reservations comes up. 

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FAQs on Vertical and Horizontal Reservations

Q.1. What are the benefits of Vertical & Horizontal reservations?

Vertical and Horizontal Reservations help groups acquire and retain advantages that others lack.

Q.2. What are the reasons for having Vertical and Horizontal Reservations?

The reason for having Vertical and Horizontal Reservations is that it can lead to increased access to resources and opportunities for disadvantaged groups, which they may not otherwise be able to get. 

Q.3. What is the difference between Vertical and Horizontal Reservations?

Vertical reservation is for the people belonging to the so-called backward classes. Horizontal reservation is for other disadvantaged groups like women, children, transgender people, people with disabilities etc.

Q.4. What are the disadvantages of providing Vertical and Horizontal Reservations?

The disadvantages of providing Vertical and Horizontal Reservations are that all are not provided equal opportunities to reach a certain status.

Q.5. What are examples of Vertical and Horizontal Reservations?

An example for vertical reservations would be Article 16(4). An example of horizontal reservations would be Article 15(3).

Q.6. What is the horizontal reservation?

Horizontal reservation is given to a class or group of people within the same category or level. For example, SC/ST/OBC are grouped under one class and given horizontal reservation.

Q.7. What is the vertical reservation?

Vertical reservation is the reservation of seats in the institutions for those from a particular caste, class, and gender. This type of reservation is provided to those historically discriminated against. These include people from lower castes, women, physically-challenged people, etc.

Q.8. What is the meaning of reservation?

Reservation is an act of setting apart, or a part kept or given up for a particular purpose. It refers to an action where something is set aside for a specific purpose. This term has gained popularity in the political sphere. It refers to a policy where specific seats or positions are reserved for particular communities or individuals who belong to backward classes. In political terms, this policy ensures that particular seats are reserved for people who belong to minority groups like Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST), and Other Backward Classes (OBC).