Source: (2007) Paper presented at the annual meeting of the The Law and Society Association, TBA, Berlin, Germany, Jul 25, 2007.

The present status of India’s competitive market has increased the demand for professionals. Higher educational institutions form the substrata to acquire and hone the skills required to cater to this demand. Although merit is the sole admission criterion for such institutions, the Indian Constitution empowers the State to reserve seats for socially and educationally backward classes of people. This Constitutional power has been repeatedly used/misused to implement various reservation policies. The recent trend of reservations witnessed in certain higher educational institutions has sparked serious protests, engulfing the nation in socio-political and legal debates as to the necessity and quantity of such reservations. Though practices similar to reservation are prevalent in many nations, it gains special significance in India due to the caste prejudices inherent in her social structure, subjugation under the British policy of divide and rule, a distinct Constitutional set-up and most importantly the sheer quantity of reservation (69% in Tamil Nadu - a state in India). Though India cannot evade its Constitutional obligation as a welfare state to secure social justice, the efficacy of current reservation mechanisms in fulfilling this mandate has been questioned. This issue has acquired greater dimensions due to the consequent alienation of other sections of the society. This inevitably raises the question of an alternate strategy to uplift and empower the weaker sections. In light of the above, and through analysis of judicial pronouncements, this paper attempts to find an answer, if any to the reservation debate in India. (author's abstract)