By an Order made by the President of India, in the year 1979, under Article 340 of the Constitution, a Backward Class Commission was appointed to investigate the conditions of socially and educationally backward classes within the territory of India, which Commission is popularly known as Mandal Commission. The terms of reference of the Commission were:

The terms of reference of the Commission were:-

(i) to determine the criteria for defining the socially and educationally backward classes;

(ii) to recommend steps to be taken for the advancement of the socially and educationally backward classes of citizens so identified;

(iii) to examine the desirability or otherwise of making provision for the reservation of appointments or posts in favour of such backward classes of citizens which are not adequately represented in public services and posts in connection with the affairs of the Union or of any State; and

(iv) present to the President a report setting out the facts as found by them and making such recommendations as they think proper.

The Expectation of Report

The report of the Commission was required to be submitted not later than 31st December, 1979, which date was later extended upto December 31, 1980. It was so submitted.

Chapters of the Report

CHAPTER-I of the Report deals with the Constitution of First Backward Classes Commission (Kaka Kalelkar Commission), its report, the letter of Kaka Kalelkar to the President, the lack of follow-up action and the letter of the Central Government referred to hereinbefore to State Governments to draw up their own lists. It also points out certain “internal contradictions” in the Report.

CHAPTER-II deals with the “Status of other backward classes in some States“. It sets out the several provisions relating to reservation in favour of O.B.Cs. obtaining in several States and the history of such reservations.

CHAPTER-III is entitled ‘methodology and data base’. It sets out the procedure followed by the Commission and the material gathered by them.

One important reason as to why the Central Government could not accept the recommendations of Kaka Kalelkar Commission was that it had not worked out objective tests and criteria for the proper classification of socially and educationally backward classes. In several petitions filed against reservation orders issued by some State Governments, the Supreme Court and various High Courts have also emphasised the imperative need for an empirical approach to the defining of socially and educationally backwardness or identification of Other Backward Classes.

The Mandal Commission has constantly kept the above requirements in view in planning the scope of its activities. It was to serve this very purpose that the Commission made special efforts to associate the leading Sociologists, Research Organisations and Specialised Agencies of the country with every important facet of its activity. Instead of relying on one or two established techniques of enquiry, it tried to caste our net far and wide so as to collect facts and get feed-back from as large an area as possible.

It then refers to the Seminar held by Department of Anthropology of Delhi University in March 1979, to the questionnaire issued to all departments of Central Government and to the State Governments the country-wide touring undertaken by the Commission, the evidence recorded by it, the socio-educational field survey conducted by it and other studies and Reports involved in its work.

In CHAPTER-IV the Commission deals with the interrelationship between social backwardness and caste. It describes how the fourth caste, Shudras, were kept in a state of intellectual and physical subjugation and the historical injustices perpetrated on them.

CHAPTER-V deals with ‘social dynamics of caste’. In this chapter, the Commission emphasises the fact that notwithstanding public declarations condemning the caste, it has remained a significant basis of action in politics and public life.

CHAPTER-VI deals with ‘Social Justice, Merit and Privilege’. It attempts to establish, that merit in a elitist society is not something inherent but is the consequence of environmental privileges enjoyed by the members of higher castes.

This is sought to be illustrated by giving an example of two boys – Lallu and Mohan. Lallu is a village boy belonging to a backward class occupying a low social position in the village caste hierarchy. He comes from a poor illiterate family and studies at a village school, where the level of instruction is woeful. On the other hand, Mohan comes from a fairly well-off middle class and educated family, attends one of the good public schools in the city, has assistance at home besides the means of acquiring knowledge through television, radio, magazines and so on. Even though both Lallu and Mohan possess the same level of intelligence, Lallu can never compete with Mohan in any open competition because of the several environmental disadvantages suffered by him.

CHAPTER-VII deals with ‘Social justice. Constitution and the law’. It refers to the relevant provisions of the Constitution, to the decision in M.R. Balaji and Ors. v. State of Mysore [1963] Suppl. 1 S.C.R. 439 and various subsequent decisions of this Court and discusses the principles flowing from the said decisions.

CHAPTER-VIII deals with ‘North-South Comparison of other Backward Classes Welfare’. It is a case study of provisions in force in two Southern States namely Tamil Nadu and Karnataka and the two Northern States, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

CHAPTER-IX sets out the evidence tendered by Central and State Governments while CHAPTER-X deals with the evidence tendered by the Public.

CHAPTER-XI is quite important inasmuch as it deals with the “Socio-Educational Field Survey and Criteria of Backwardness”.


The Commission sets out the Methodology evolved by the Experts’ panel and states that survey operations were entrusted to the State Statistical Organisations of the concerned States/Union Territories. It refers to the training imparted to the survey staff and to the fact that the entire data so collected was fed into a computer for electronic processing of such data. Out of the 406 districts in the country, the survey covered 405 districts. In every district, two villages and one urban block was selected and in each of these villages and urban blocks, every single household was surveyed.

The entire data collected was tabulated with the aid and National Informatics center of Electronics Commission of India. The Technical Committee constituted a Sub-Committee of Experts to help the Commission prepare “Indicators of Backwardness” for analysing the data contained in the computerised tables.

Eleven Indicators to determine backwardness

In para 11.23 (page 52) the Commission sets out the eleven Indicators/Criteria evolved by it for determining social and educational backwardness. Paras 11.23, 11.24 and 11.25 are relevant and may be set out in full:-

11.23. As a result of the above exercise, the Commission evolved eleven ‘Indicators’ or ‘criteria’ for determining social and educational backwardness. These 11 ‘Indicators’ were grouped under three broad heads, i.e., Social, Educational and Economic. They are:-


(i) Castes/Classes considered as socially backward by others.

(ii) Castes/Classes which mainly depend on manual labour for their livelihood.

(iii) Castes/Classes where at least 25% females and 10% males above the state average get married at an age below 17 years in rural areas and at least 10% females and 5% males do so in urban areas.

(iv) Castes/Classes where participation of females in work is at least 25% above the State average.


(v) Castes/Classes where the number of children in the age group of 5-15 years who never attended school is at least 25% above the State average.

(vi) Castes/Classes where the rate of student drop-out in the age group of 5-15 years is at least 25% above the State average.

(vii) Castes/Classes amongst whom the proportion of matriculates is at least 25% below the State average.


(viii) Castes/Classes where the average value of family assets is at least 25% below the State average. (ix) Castes/Classes where the number of families living in Kuccha houses is at least 25% above the State average.

(x) Castes/Classes where the source of drinking water is beyond half a kilometer for more than 50% of the households.

(xi) Castes/Classes where the number of households having taken consumption loan is at least 25% above the State average.

11.24. As the above three groups are not of equal importance for our purpose, separate weightage was given to ‘Indicators’ in each group. All the Social ‘Indicators’ were given a weightage of 3 points each. Educational ‘Indicators’ a weightage of 2 points each and Economic ‘Indicators’ a weightage of one point each.

Economic, in addition to Social and Educational Indicators, were considered important as they directly flowed from social and educational backwardness. This also helped to highlight the fact that socially and educationally backward classes are economically backward also.

11.25. It will be seen that from the values given to each Indicators, the total score adds upto 22. All these 11 Indicators were applied to all the castes covered by the survey for a particular State. As a result of this application, all castes which had a score of 50 percent (i.e., 11 points) or above were listed as socially and educationally backward and the rest were treated as ‘advanced’. (It is a sheer coincidence that the number of indicators and minimum point score for backwardness, both happen to be eleven).

Further, in case the number of households covered by the survey for any particular caste were below 20, it was left out of consideration, as the sample was considered too small for any dependable inference.

CHAPTER-XII deals with ‘Identification of OBCs’. In the first instance, the Commission deals with OBCs among Hindu Communities. It says that it applied several tests for determining the SEBCs like stigmas of low-occupation, criminality, nomadism, beggary and untouchability besides inadequate representation in public services. The multiple approach adopted by the Commission is set out in para 12.7 which reads:-

12.7. Thus, the Commission has adopted a multiple approach for the preparation of comprehensive lists of Other Backward Classes for all the States and Union Territories. The main sources examined for the preparation of these lists are:-

(i) Socio-educational field survey;

(ii) Census Report of 1961 (particularly for the identification of primitive tribes, aboriginal tribes, hill tribes, forest tribes and indigenous tribes);

(iii) Personal knowledge gained through extensive touring of the country and receipt of voluminous public evidences as described in Chapter X of this Report; and

(iv) Lists of OBCs notified by various State Governments. The Commission next deals with OBCs among Non-Hindu Communities.

In paragraphs 12.11 to 12.16 the Commission refers to the fact that even among Christian, Muslim and Sikh religions, which do not recognise caste, the caste system is prevailing though without religious sanction. After giving a good deal of thought to several difficulties in the way of identifying OBCs among Non-Hindus, the Commission says, it has evolved a rough and ready criteria viz.,

(1) all untouchables converted to any Non-Hindu religion and

(2) such occupational communities which are known by the name of their traditional hereditary occupation and whose Hindu counter-parts have been included in the list of Hindu OBCs – ought to be treated as SEBCs. The Commission then sought to work out the estimated population of the OBCs in the country and arrived at the figure of 52 per cent.

CHAPTER-XIII contains various recommendations including reservations in services. In view of the decisions of the Supreme Court limiting the total reservation to 50 per cent, the Commission recommended 27 per cent reservation in favour of OBCs (in addition to 22.5 per cent already existing in favour of SCs and STs). It recommended several measures for improving the condition of these backward classes. Chapter-XIV contains a summary of the report.

Report before the House of Parliament

The Report of the Mandal Commission was laid before each House of Parliament and discussed on two occasions – once in 1982 and again in the year 1983. The proceedings of the Lok Sabha placed before us contain the statement of Sri R. Venkataraman, the then Minister for Defence and Home Affairs. He expressed the view that “the debate has cut across party lines and a number of people on this side have supported the recommendations of the Mandal Commission.

A large number of people on the other side have also supported it. If one goes through the entire debate one will be impressed with a fairly unanimous desire on the part of all sections of the House to find a satisfactory solution to this social evil of backwardness of Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes etc. which is a festering sore in our body politic,”

The Hon’ble Minister then proceeded to state,” the Members generally said that the recommendations should be accepted. Some Members said that it should be accepted in toto. Some Members have said that it should be accepted with certain reservations. Some Members said, there should be other criteria than only social and educational backwardness. But all these are ideas which Government will take into account. The problem that confronts Government today is to arrive at a satisfactory definition of backward classes and bring about an acceptance of the same by all the state concerned.”

The Hon’ble Minister referred to certain difficulties the Government was facing in implementing the recommendations of the Commission on account of the large number of castes identified and on account of the variance in the State lists and the Mandal Commission lists and stated that consultation with various departments and State Governments was in progress in this behalf. He stated that a meeting of the Chief Ministers would be convened shortly to take decisions in the matter.

The Report was again discussed in the year 1983. The then Hon’ble Minister for Home Sri P.C. Sethi, while replying to the debate stated: “While referring to the Commission whose report has been discussed today, I would like to remind the House that although this Commission had been appointed by our predecessor Government, we now desire to continue with this Commission and implement its recommendations.”

Action on the Report

No action was, however, taken on the basis of the Mandal Commission Report until the issuance of the Office Memorandum on 25th September, 1991. On that day, the then Prime Minister Sri V.P. Singh made a statement in the Parliament in which he stated inter alia as follows:

“After all, if you take the strength of the whole of the Government employees as a proportion of the population, it will be 1% or 1-1/2. I do not know exactly, it may be less than 1%. We are under no illusion that this 1% of the population, or a fraction of it will resolve the economic problems of the whole section of 52%. No. We consciously want to give them a position in the decision-making of the country, a share in the power structure. We talk about merit. What is the merit of the system itself?

That the section which has 52% of the population gets 12.55% in Government employment. What is the merit of the system? That in Class I employees of the Government it gets only 4.69%, for 52% of the population in decision-making at the top echelons it is not even one-tenth of the population of the country; in the power structure it hardly 4.69. I want to challenge first the merit of the system itself before we come and question on the merit, whether on merit to reject this individual or that. And we want to change the structure basically, consciously, with open eyes. And I know when changing the structures comes, there will be resistance….

What I want to convey is that treating unequals as equals is the greatest injustice. And, correction of this injustice is very important and that is what I want to convey. Here, the National Front Government’s Commitment for not only change of Government, but also change of the social order, is something of great significance to all of us; it is a matter of great significance. Merely making programmes of economic benefit to various sections of the society will not do….

There is a very big force in the argument to involve the poorest in the power structure. For a lot of time we have acted on behalf of the poor. We represent the poor….

Let us forget that the poor are begging for some crumbs. They have suffered it for thousands of years. Now they are fighting for their honour as a human being….”

Recommendations of the Second backward Classes Commission

By issuing office memorandum on 13th August 1990, the Govt of India announced thus,

“Government have carefully considered the report and the recommendations of the Commission in the present context regarding the benefits to be extended to the socially and educationally backward classes as opined by the Commission and are of the clear view that at the outset certain weightage has to be provided to such classes in the services of the Union and their Public Undertakings. Accordingly orders are issued as follows:-

(i) 27% of the vacancies in civil posts and services under the Government of India shall be reserved for SEBC.

(ii) The aforesaid reservation shall apply to vacancies to be filled by direct recruitment.

(iii) Candidates belonging to SEBC recruited on the basis of merit in an open competition on the same standards prescribed for the general candidates shall not be adjusted against the reservation quota of 27%.

(iv) The SEBC would comprise in the first phase the castes and communities which are common to both the list in the report of the Mandal Commission and the State Governments’ lists, a list of such castes/communities is being issued separately.

(v) The aforesaid reservation shall take effect from 7.8.1990.

Consequence after Announcement

Soon after the issuance of the said Memorandum there was wide-spread protest in certain Northern States against it. There occurred serious disturbance to law and order involving damage to private and public property. Some young people lost their lives by self-immolation. Writ Petitions were filed in this Court questioning the said Memorandum along with applications for staying the operation of the Memorandum. It was stayed by Supreme Court.

Some amendment in Memorandum

After the change of the Government at the center following the general election held in the first half of 1991, another Office Memorandum was issued on 25th September, 1991 modifying the earlier Memorandum dated 13th August, 1990. The later Memorandum reads as follows:

Government have decided to amend the said Memorandum with immediate effect as follows:-

(i) Within the 27% of the vacancies in civil posts and services under the Government of India reserved for SEBCs, preference shall be given to candidates belonging to the poorer sections of the SEBCs. In case sufficient number of such candidates are not available, unfilled vacancies shall be filled by the other SEBC candidates.

(ii) 10% of the vacancies in civil posts and services under the Government of India shall be reserved for other economically backward sections of the people who are not covered by any of the existing schemes of reservation.

(iii) The criteria for determining the poorer sections of the SEBCs or the other economically backward sections of the people who are not covered by any of the existing schemes of reservations are being issued separately.