Right to Equality: Analyzing the case of Siddaraju vs. State of Karnataka


JUDGE: Rohinton Fali Nariman, Aniruddha Bose, V. Ramasubramanian,J

DECIDED ON: 14 January 2020 



For the protection of the basic rights various fundamental rights are provided to the citizens and in some cases to non-citizen too under the Indian constitution. One of these fundamental rights provides protection against discrimination in the opportunity to work in public office. The same was upheld by the honorable Supreme Court in its numerous judgments stating, “Reservation in promotion is not a fundamental right”. The court also stated in one of its cases that Article 15(4) is not a mandatory clause instead it empowers the government to provide reservation in promotion and not on the basis of lack of representation.

Although, the reservation doesn’t mean discrimination towards the unreserved group or the majority. It is just a way to protect minority or weaker sections of society. However, the fact that in India reservation percentage has been raised to 49.5% in total cannot be neglected [1]. The author is in the view that reservation for admission does not lead to inequality but if the same continues for promotions too then it may lead to inequality toward the unreserved.


This appeal was made in the Supreme Court with reference to the judgment passed by the division bench of Apex Court in the matter of Rajiv Kumar Gupta and Others Vs. Union Of India.

Mr. Ranjit Kumar, learned Solicitor General, pointed out that the prohibition against reservation in promotion laid down by the majority in Indra Sawhney and Others Vs. Union of India and Others [2] applies not only to Article 16(4) but also to article 16(1) of the constitution of India and interference to the contrary is not justified.

The person suffering from disability certainly requires preferential treatment and such preferential treatment may also cover reservation in appointment but not reservation in promotion. Section 33 of 1995 Act is required to be read and constructed in that background [3].


In December 1992, the conference was held in Beijing where, China and India signed the proclamation directed to the Asia Pacific region for a full appointment but not reservation in promotion. Through this it was found that there is a need to remove the discrimination against the person with disabilities and provide special care towards them also, to integrate them with the mainstream.

After signing this proclamation, Indian Parliament passed the Person with Disabilities (Equal Opportunity, Protection of rights, Full Participation) Act, 1995. Section 2(i) of the said Act defines “disability” as follows:-

  • Blindness;
  • Low Vision;
  • Leprosy-cured;
  • Hearing Impairment;
  • Loco Motor Disability;
  • Mental Retardation;
  • Mental Illness;

On 29th December 2005, the Government of India declared the Memorandum which was accepted by the court. It was about “Quantum Reservation”. The same is stated as follow: –

  • 3% reservation to A, B, C, and D group for direct recruitment and for the person suffering from blindness or low vision and hearing impairment 1% vacancy should be reserved.
  • Three percent of the vacancies in case of promotion to Group D and Group post in posts in which the element of direct recruitment, if any, does not exceed 75%, shall be reserved for persons with disabilities of which one percent each shall be reserved for persons suffering from (i) blindness and or low vision, (ii) hearing impairment and (iii) locomotor disability or cerebral palsy in the posts identification for each disability [4].


The court in its judgment referred to Indra Sawhney case and stated in its judgment that the ceiling of 50% of reservation only applies in favor of other backward class under Article 16 (4) of the constitution of India. Whereas the reservation concerned with disabilities is horizontal under article 16(1).

In Para 812 of its judgment, the court pronounced the example of 3% reservation with the ceiling of 50%. Elaborating Para 812, the court explained the vertical and horizontal reservation. The reservation in favor of Schedule caste, Scheduled Tribes, and other backward class falls under article 16(4) and can be called as “Vertical Reservation”. The reservation granted to the physically handicapped person falls under article 16(4) and can be termed as “horizontal reservation”.

The court discussed regarding the social and practical barriers in the life of a disabled person and considered it as the reason of many disabled person living in poverty.

Further, the reservation for persons with disabilities has nothing to do with the ceiling of 50%, and hence, Indra Sawhney is not applicable with respect to the disabled person.[5]

Another key feature of the case was when the court referred to the case of Blind Vs. Sanjay Kothari. Secy. Dept. of Personnel and Training, 2015 and set aside the aforesaid judgment stating ‘The manner must be uniform in all groups in the computation of vacancies’.

It directed the government to extend 3% reservation of PWD in all identified posts in Group A and Group B, irrespective of the mode of filling up of such posts.

Critical Analysis      

The judgment highlights many indispensable points. It highlights the difference between the ‘Vertical’ and ‘Horizontal’ reservation and the vacancies to the ceiling of reservation. The judgment makes it clear that the case of Indra Sawhney has been differently justified through vertical and horizontal reservation. For instance, if 3% of vacancies are reserved in favor of physically handicapped persons, it would be a reservation relatable to clause (1) of Article 16 and the persons selected against this quota will be placed in the appropriate category. Similarly, If the person belongs to the Scheduled Caste category he will be placed in that quota by making necessary adjustments and if he belongs to Open Competition (O.C.) category he will be placed in that category by making necessary adjustments. Even after providing these horizontal reservations, the percentage of reservations in favor of the backward class of citizens remain the same.[6]The court observed that under this judgment article 15 (4) of the constitution of India does not fall under fundamental rights but this provision empowers the government in connecting with the reservation in promotion on the basis of lack of representation. This can be termed ‘as clear as prism’ because the most irresolute statute received clearance straight from the horse’s mouth (Apex Court) which will lead a good precedent ahead.

Author’s View

It is an unhidden truth of a society that people with disabilities face day-to-day challenges. Our society has failed in giving recognition to them and providing opportunities to them. Due to a lack of opportunities, most of them live below the poverty line. Indian constitution provides protection to them but has failed in providing assurance to the same.

Reservation policy in India has always remained a controversial issue but looking at the challenges faced by these people the author believes that reservation is the best way to provide protection and opportunities to them. The author firmly believes that reservation should be Class-based and not Caste-based. The reservation for Economic Backward Class (EBC) is the best example of this. This form of the reservation is healthier as to avail the benefits provided you need not be of caste falling under reservation.

The judgment of this case is definitely a precedent-setting judgment. The author agrees that the horizontal or vertical reservation cannot be mixed and looking to the current scenario India still needs to continue both forms of reservation.     

This blog is authored by Prathana Patel, student at GLS Law College, Ahmedabad.


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