Coupon Accepted Successfully!


The Decision Makers

Who decided to issue this Memorandum? Clearly, the person who signed that document could not have taken such a big decision. The officer was merely implementing the instructions given by the Minister of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, of which the Department was a part. We can guess that such a major decision would have involved other major functionaries in our country. You have already read in the previous class about some of them. Let us go over some of the main points that you covered then:

a. President is the head of the state and is the highest formal authority in the country.

b. Prime Minister is the head of the government and actually exercises all governmental powers. He takes most of the decisions in the Cabinet meetings.

c. Parliament consists of two Houses, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. The Prime Minister must have the support of a majority of Lok Sabha members. So, were all these people involved in this decision regarding the Office Memorandum? Let us find out.

This Office Memorandum was the culmination of a long chain of events. The Government of India had appointed the Second Backward Classes Commission in 1979. B.P. Mandal headed it. Hence it was popularly called the Mandal Commission. It was asked to determine the criteria to identify the socially and educationally b backward classes in India and recommend steps to be taken for their advancement. The Commission gave its Report in 1980 and made many recommendations. One of these was that 27 per cent of government jobs be reserved for the socially and economically backward classes. The Report and recommendations were discussed in the Parliament.

For several years, many parliamentarians and parties kept demanding the implementation of the Commission’s recommendations. Then came the Lok Sabha election of 1989. In its election manifesto, the Janata Dal promised that if voted to power, it would implement the Mandal Commission report. The Janata Dal did form the government after this election. Its leader V. P. Singh became the Prime Minister. Several developments took place after that:


V. P. Singh


The President of India in his address to the Parliament announced the intention of the government to implement the recommendations of the Mandal Commission.

a. On 6 August 1990, the Union Cabinet took a formal decision to implement the recommendations.

b. Next day Prime Minister V.P. Singh informed the Parliament about this decision through a statement in both the Houses of Parliament.

c. The decision of the Cabinet was sent to the Department of Personnel and Training. The senior officers of the Department drafted an order in line with the Cabinet decision and took the minister’s approval. An officer signed the order on behalf of the Union Government.

This was how O.M. No. 36012/ 31/90 was born on August 13, 1990.For the next few months, this was the most hotly debated issue in the country. Newspapers and magazines ©GCMMF India

It led to widespread protests and counter protests, some of which were violent. People reacted strongly because this decision affected thousands of job opportunities. Some felt that existence of inequalities among people of different castes in India necessitated job reservations. They felt, this would give a fair opportunity to those communities who so far had not adequately been represented in government employment. Others felt that this was unfair, as it would deny equality of opportunity to those who did not belong to backward communities. They would be denied jobs even though they could be more qualified. Some felt that this would perpetuate caste feelings among people and hamper national unity. The Supreme Court and the High Courts in India settle disputes arising out of governmental decisions. Some persons and associations opposed to this order filed a number of cases in the courts. They appealed to the courts to declare the order invalid and stop its implementation.

The Supreme Court of India bunched all these cases together. This case was known as the ‘Indira Sawhney and others Vs Union of India case’. Eleven judges of the Supreme Court heard arguments of both sides. By a majority, the Supreme Court judges in 1992 declared that this order of the Government of India was valid. At the same time the Supreme Court asked the government to modify its decision to give 27% job reservation to all those who belong to Socially and Economically Backward Classes (SEBC).


Test Your Skills Now!
Take a Quiz now
Reviewer Name