Horizontal and Vertical Reservations – Difference, Significance and Saurav Yadav Case

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

Vertical and Horizontal Reservations are the two types of reservations under the reservation policy in India. After independence, in the first step towards social justice, GoI introduced reservations like vertical and horizontal reservations for SC/ST/OBCs in education and public employment through constitutional amendments in the 1950s.

Many thinkers have criticized these vertical and horizontal reservations on various grounds, as these reservations are based on caste rather than merit. The Supreme Court’s ruling in the Saurav Yadav Case and the two types of reservations, vertical and horizontal reservations will be thoroughly covered in this article. It is a crucial topic for the UPSC Exam.

Vertical and Horizontal Reservations?

Reservation in India refers to affirmative action practiced 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.

Vertical and Horizontal Reservations Notes

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. It comes under Article 15(3) of the Constitution of India.

Since horizontal 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 the government creates.

The number of reserved seats will depend on the number of posts made. The groups included under the horizontal reservations are:

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

Vertical Reservation

Vertical Reservation is a form of reservation that seeks to uplift socially or economically underprivileged groups. Under vertical 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 vertical 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 reservations in education and employment to citizens’ socially and educationally backward classes (SEBCs).

However, right from the beginning, the vertical reservation provision has been facing constitutional challenges to the extent of being ultra vires.

Difference between Vertical and Horizontal Reservation

The difference between vertical and horizontal reservations in India is explained in the table below-

Vertical Reservation Horizontal Reservation
Vertical Reservation is the reservation for the people belonging to the backward classes. Horizontal reservation is the reservation for the disadvantaged group in society.
It promotes the inclusion of socially and economically backward groups, i.e., lower castes (SC/ST/OBC) It is a reservation for Children of veterans who are serving in the armed forces, retired or killed in action, disabled persons, widows and unmarried women, and people from rural areas.
The limit for reservations was extended to 40% after the introduction of EWS Reservation. The reservation number depends upon the number of seats available.
Article 16(4) deals with the Vertical Reservation Article 15(3) deals with Horizontal Reservation.

Significance of Vertical and Horizontal Reservations

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

Having vertical and horizontal reservations would help these groups access higher education and government jobs, which were previously out of their prospects.

Explanation of Vertical and Horizontal Reservation

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. Each vertical category receives a different application of the horizontal quota; it is not applied uniformly.

For instance, if the horizontal quota for women is 50%, then half of the candidates chosen for each vertical quota category, i.e., all scheduled caste candidates chosen must be women, all candidates chosen for the non-reserved or general category must be women, and so on.

Saurav Yadav v. The State of Uttar Pradesh Case

The Supreme Court rendered a decision against the Uttar Pradesh government in the case of Saurav Yadav v. the State of Uttar Pradesh in January 2021. It has clarified the legal stance on how vertical and horizontal reservations coexist.

In 2020, Saurav Yadav raised a case against the state of Uttar Pradesh in the Supreme Court. In this case, Rita Rani secured 233.1908 while Sonam Tomar scored 276.59 marks. Rita applied under the SC-female category and Sonam applied for the OBC-female one. Another girl who scored 274.82 marks under the general category was selected but these two were not considered as qualifying.

To this, the two judged penal of the Supreme Court ruled against the government of Uttar Pradesh. According to the court, a candidate belonging to two reserved categories (i.e., at an intersection of the vertical-horizontal reserved category) will be considered as qualifying under the vertical as well as horizontal category.

SC’s Reasoning on the Saurav Yadav’s Case

  • A high-scoring candidate who would have qualified without any of the two reservations is eliminated if both vertical and horizontal quotas are used; as a result, candidates with lower scores would make up the final selection.
  • On the contrary hand, the court discovered that the final selection would include more high-scoring applicants if a high-scoring applicant was permitted to remove one category.
  • Or to put it another way, only the “meritorious” candidates would be chosen.
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