Reservation in India: What are Horizontal and Vertical Quotas?

January 17, 2021, The Liberacy:- Reservation in India is a long sown seed, from the introduction of reservation in favor of non-Brahmin and backward classes by Shahu Maharaj of Maratha Empire to the British with Communal Award to 1980s, in favour of OBCs (Other Backward Castes) and in 2019 for poor in the upper caste category.

The Supreme Court, in December 2020, added a fresh chapter to the very existence of reservation in India and the way it should be seen for Social Justice and NOT for Equality, with its verdict in Saurav Yadav Vs State of Uttar Pradesh case.

With the courts’ decision on the case, it clarified the meanings of Vertical Quotas in the reservation and Horizontal Quotas in the reservation.

What are Vertical and Horizontal Quotas?

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Reservation in India
Reservation in India

Vertical Quota:- Reservation for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Other Backward Classes is known as Vertical Quota in Reservation.
The basic moto of this quota can be called, “Uplifting the deprived.”

Horizontal Quota:- Reservation for Females, Veterans, Transgenders, people with disabilities, etc. are under Horizontal Quotas.
The aim of this quota is to create “Equality among Unequal.”

The Supreme Court case of Saurav Yadav Vs State of Uttar Pradesh was a classic case that outlined the definition of Quotas and how both, Vertical and Horizontal Quotas, can be applied together.

Sonam Tomar (OBC) secured 276.59 marks and had applied for the OBC-Female category seat. Here, OBC is Vertical Quota and Female is Horizontal Quota.
Here, Sonam didn’t qualify in her Category.
But, the last candidate to qualify in the General-Female category secured 274.82 marks, lower than Sonam Tomar’s of OBC, and qualified in her category.

The basic question in front of the court was if the selection should be considered according to the merit, then shouldn’t Sonam Tomar be selected under the General-Female category and not under the applied OBC-Female category?

The State of Uttar Pradesh argued in favour of restricting the candidates to their categories even though if they have secured more marks.

The court here ruled against the State of Uttar Pradesh, saying that if a person belongs to the intersection of Vertical-Horizontal quotas, and has secured enough marks to qualify without any one Quota, then the person should be counted as qualified without that one quota.

How was it applied till now?
The Horizontal quota is applied separately in the reserved category (Reservation inside Reservation), if women have 50% reservation in the SC category, then half of the selected SC candidates should be Women.

The Supreme Court while stating the reasons for the decision indicated that it is in favour of Merit and allowing the candidates with higher marks to get the seats.
But has failed to answer the very important question regarding the benefits of the reservation, if any of the Vertical Quota is removed or neglected while awarding a seat.

For Example:- If Sonam Tomar of OBC securing 276.59 marks, applied for the OBC-Female category is promoted and given a seat from General-Female category, by removing the Vertical Quota, will the financial benefit be taken away from her, without her knowledge?
Because, while awarding seats to reserved category students, some amount of money is also reduced, subsidised by the government, which largely helps the students of OBC, SC, and ST categories.

On the other hand, removing the Vertical Quota of reserved category will shift them into General category and will only crowd the General category seats, which were left for them by giving separate reservations in India back in decades.

The Saurav Yadav Vs State of Uttar Pradesh case raised very alarming narratives that should be discussed, like “Giving-up Reservation by Choice” or simply “Reservation by Choice” just like people of India gave-up subsidised cylinders, according to their financial level, when requested by the PM of India, Narendra Modi.

“Reservation by Choice” might bring forward an Exit Door for Reservation in India with the upliftment of deprived classes.

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