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Bihar Reservation Act (Know the BASICS)

News: Bihar government approved laws increasing reservations in jobs and education to 75%. This exceeds the Supreme Court’s 50% (60% after EWS) limit set for such reservations. The laws may face legal challenges, and there’s anticipation that the Supreme Court might reconsider this 50% limit.


The Bihar State Legislature recently passed two significant bills unanimously, which have also received the state governor’s approval. These bills propose the same increase in reservations for educational institutions and government jobs and are based on a caste survey conducted by the state government.

Key provisions of these bills:

The reservation quota for the Extremely Backward Class (EBC) will increase from 18% to 25%. For the Backward Class (BC), it will rise from 12% to 18%. The Scheduled Caste (SC) quota will go up from 16% to 20%, and the Scheduled Tribe (ST) quota will be doubled from 1% to 2%. Additionally, the existing 3% reservation for BC women has been eliminated.

Judicial view on Reservations in India?

50% Cap on Reservations: The Supreme Court set a 50% limit on reservations in jobs and education, treating it as an exception under the constitutional framework.

Exceptions to the Rule: In exceptional cases, such as for communities from remote areas, this cap can be exceeded.

10% EWS Reservation: The Court approved an additional 10% reservation for economically weaker sections (EWS), effectively raising the cap to 60%.

Challenges Bihar Government Face with Its Reservation Act?

Breaching the Ceiling: The Bihar government must prove that the communities benefiting from the excess reservation are from remote areas or socially marginalized, as per the Supreme Court’s criteria.

Defending the Motive: Bihar’s Chief Minister rationale, based on caste census results, challenges the Court’s view that reservations should aim for “adequate” representation, not proportionate to population.

Precedent of Legal Challenges: Similar attempts by other states, like Maharashtra and Rajasthan, to exceed reservation limits have been struck down by the courts.

Note: Several states have gone beyond the 50% reservation limit, not including EWS: Chhattisgarh at 72%, Tamil Nadu at 69% (protected by a 1994 Act), and northeastern states like Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Nagaland at 80%. Lakshadweep reserves 100% for Scheduled Tribes.

Way forward

The Bihar government’s reservation act, surpassing the 50% limit, will likely face legal scrutiny. The Supreme Court may be urged to reevaluate this cap, considering Bihar and other states’ precedents. A balance between constitutional guidelines and regional socio-economic realities needs to be found.

Question for practice:

In the context of the recent decision by the Bihar government to increase reservations in jobs and education to 75%, exceeding the Supreme Court’s 50% limit, critically examine the constitutional provisions and Judicial pronouncements with respect to the reservation policy aimed at bringing socio-economic justice. ( 150 words, 10 marks) 

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