Slips between the cup and the lip: The sorry state of reservation in Central Universities


Hany Babu M.T.

A massive recruitment exercise is just about to get under way at the University of Delhi. The University has recently advertized for 665 teaching positions with the break up as follows: Professor: 99, Associate Professor: 206, and Assistant Professor: 360. This round of recruitment, however, raises a grave concern with respect to the implementation of reservation in general and OBC reservation in particular. What is most paradoxical is that this round of recruitment is taking place after the University has finally conceded to two longstanding demands: (1) the implementation of reservation in the Professor and Associate Professor posts and (2) the implementation of the 200-point roster taking the college and the postgraduate departments (as the case may be) as a single unit. However, living up to its notorious reputation with respect to the implementation of reservation, the University is all set to violate all norms, thereby depriving the reserved categories of thousands of posts.

Apart from the current state of reservation in the teaching positions at the University of Delhi, this paper also looks at the larger picture of OBC reservation in the teaching faculty positions and identifies two factors that have colluded to deny OBCs their rightful share in the recruitment of teaching faculty. Firstly, though the Central Government implemented OBC reservation in 1993, Central Universities adopted OBC reservation in teaching positions only in 2007. There has so far been no attempt to take into account the consequent shortfall in OBC reservation. Secondly, the brahminical forces have conspired to deprive reservation for OBC in the posts of Associate Professor and Professor. This means that OBCs are deprived an equal chance to move upward in the academic hierarchy, which would, among other things, also deprive them adequate representation in the decision making bodies, as OBCs are very scantily represented in the higher positions in the academic echelons.

The empirical data presented here pertains to the positions in the postgraduate departments of the University of Delhi. The apathy of the University towards proper implementation of reservation is evident from the fact that it has failed to ensure the attainment of the requisite percentage of reservation even at the level of Assistant Professor. The fact that the University has formulated policies that will indefinitely defer the attainment of the requisite percentage points towards the malicious design of the policy makers. However, this malady is not restricted to the postgraduate departments or even to one particular University. On the contrary, what is happening in the postgraduate departments of the University can be taken to be symptomatic of the general state of affairs in the colleges under the University as well as in other Central Universities.

1. Deference of reservation and distortion of rosters

A right policy can be made entirely infructuous if there is inordinate delay in its implementation, or if it is implemented in a distorted manner. More often than not, this has been the case in the implementation of reservation. Even though reservation for SC/ST was always an integral part of the Constitution of India, most Central Universities started implementing it only in the 1990s. And it is only in 2013, that the University of Delhi has finally conceded the principle that reservation is applicable in all teaching posts. Such skewed implementation of reservation is squarely responsible for not enough representatives of the reserved categories being available in the high-ranking posts in almost all the Central Universities.

OBC reservation in employment was notified in September 1993 following the landmark Indira Sawhney judgment of the Supreme Court. RTI data obtained from the Pondicherry University reveals that OBC reservation in the recruitment of non-teaching staff was implemented with effect from September 8, 1993 following the approval of the Executive Council of the University in August 1994. Similarly, Jawaharlal Nehru University implemented OBC reservation in non-teaching posts of group C&D in 1994 and group A & B posts in 1997. However, both these Universities started implementing OBC reservation in the recruitment of teaching posts only in 2007. The University of Delhi too started implementation of OBC reservation in teaching posts only in 2007.

There is no way that we can construe the following clause from the Office Memorandum (OM) from the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) (No. 36012/22/193-Estt. (SCT)), dated 8 September, 1993) to mean that teaching posts are excluded from the purview of reservation: 

27% (twenty seven percent) of the vacancies in civil posts and services under the Government of India, to be filled through direct recruitment, shall be reserved for the Other Backward Classes.

The fact of the matter is that Universities gave effect to the OM only partially by implementing it in the recruitment of non-teaching staff. In the absence of any explanation given for the delay for institutions funded by the Central Government to adopt policies of the Government, one can only attribute it to the upper-caste antipathy toward affirmative actions for the socially deprived classes.

When the University Grants Commission finally decided to approve the implementation of Reservation for OBC in 2007, neither was any question raised about the delay of 14 years in taking a decision that was to be a natural fall out of the 1993 OM from DoPT, nor was there any mention of how OBCs are going to be compensated for the delay. As per information available, in the postgraduate department of the University of Delhi alone there have been around 270 appointments in the cadre of Assistant Professor since 1993. If OBCs had been given 27% in those appointments, we would have had around 70 OBC appointments. The figure will run into a few thousands if one looks at the data from all the colleges under the University. Both the UGC and the MHRD remain silent on this issue.

The faulty roster followed by the University of Delhi added to woes of the reserved categories. Instead of maintaining a single roster by taking all the posts in a particular cadre (say, Assistant Professor) as a single unit as stipulated in the OM dated 2nd July 1997, the University and the constituent colleges maintained department-wise rosters. This resulted in an artificial shrinking of the reserved posts as it was not possible to attain the requisite percentage of reservation in smaller departments.

In September 2013, the University finally decided to implement the 200-point post-based roster by taking all the postgraduate departments and the college as a unit (as the case may be). However, the jubilation was short-lived as the University gave a jolt to the reserved categories by declaring that the question of backlog/shortfall in reservation will not be addressed. As per the new modalities adopted by the University, 

 Shortfall ... of all reserved/unreserved posts arising out of adoption of the roster based on University/College as a unit shall be marked at the appropriate place on the roster and the same shall be filled by the candidate(s) of the respective categories when the post(s) is vacated by its present occupant.

Given the ground reality that reservation was way below the requisite percentage for all the categories, it is obvious that a large number of posts earmarked for reserved categories are currently occupied by the unreserved category. (We shall take a closer look at the state of affairs in the cadre of Assistant Professor in section 3 below.) The current policy adopted by the University entails that all such positions will be given to reserved category only when they fall vacant. Even if the retirement age stays at 65, this would mean that these posts are not going to be given to reserved categories for the next three to four decades. Thus, the rectification of the distorted rosters is made ineffectual by the flagrant attempt to defer the attainment of the requisite percentage of reservation by the adoption of faulty policies.

2. OBC Reservation in Professor and Associate Professor

Even when OBC reservation is implemented in 2007, it is done with the rider that it applies only "at the level of Lecturer". However, this goes against the UGC's own formulation spelt out in the Guidelines for Strict Implementation of Reservation Policy" (published in 2006) that "Reservation is applicable to all teaching posts ... by whatever ... nomenclature the posts are known." If reservation is applicable to all posts where there is open recruitment, then definitely OBC reservation is also applicable to all posts.

One fails to see how the 1993 OM can be construed to mean that OBC reservation is not applicable to Professor and Associate Professor posts. The only possibility is that there has been an erroneous reading of the clause that "there is no reservation for Other Backward Classes in promotion" in the OM dated 22nd October 1993 (No. 36012/22/93-Estt (SCT)), which was issued in clarification to the earlier OM issued in September. There seems to have been a misconstrual of the distinction between posts that are filled through "direct recruitment" and through "promotion" with respect to the posts of Professor and Associate Professor.

The UGC has always maintained a distinction between the posts of Reader and Professor that are filled through direct recruitment and those that are filled through promotion. For instance, the "UGC Notification on Revision of Pay Scales, minimum qualification for Appointments of Teachers in Universities, Colleges and Other measures for the Maintenance of Standards, 1998" spell out distinct eligibility criteria and mode of selection for a Reader and Professor selected through "Direct Recruitment" and those selected through "Promotion". While a person with PhD and 5 years of teaching or research experience can be selected as Reader through Direct Recruitment, only those who have 5 years of service as a Lecturer (Selection Grade) are eligible for promotion as Reader. Similarly, while a person who is "an outstanding scholar with established reputation who has made significant contribution to knowledge" can be recruited directly as Professor, only those with "8 years of service as Reader" are eligible for the post of Professor through Promotion. Even the Guidelines published in 2010 make a distinction between "Direct Recruitment" and "Career Advancement". While section 4 spells out the eligibility and procedure for direct recruitment, section 6.4 lays down the eligibility and procedure for promotion through "Career Advancement". Thus, though the pay and service conditions are the same, different eligibility criteria and mode of selection make the posts that are filled through "Direct Recruitment" and "Promotion" distinct.

In a recent judgment by the Supreme Court in the case of Faculty Association of AIIMS, there is an attempt to resuscitate an opinion expressed by one of the nine judges in the Indira Sawhney case. The view is that in

... services and posts where either on account of the nature of duties attached to them or the level in the hierarchy at which they stood, merit alone counts. In such situations, it cannot be advised to provide for reservations.

The view expressed above has direct bearing on the point of our discussion, as the posts of Professor and Associate Professor are higher in the "level in the hierarchy". However, this view cannot be used to deny OBCs the benefit of reservation in Professor and Associate Professor as the above judgment talks about reservation in general, and not about reservation to any particular category or categories. Since reservation at the level of Professor and Associate Professor is given to SC, ST, and PH category, one fails to see how it can be denied to OBC alone.

The denial of reservation in Associate Professor and Professor posts violates the right to equality of OBC candidates. Since direct recruitment is based on an open competition, an OBC teacher who has been recruited in a reserved post as Assistant Professor will have to compete with the candidates from Unreserved Categories, which will lead to an unequal competition. It will be too naïve to assume that the scars of deprivation that cannot be wiped out even with the passage of generations can be overcome by serving a few years as an Assistant or Associate Professor. In fact, the rationale of not considering one's own income in order to determine "creamy layer" status is based on the principle that deprivation cannot be adequately compensated by an improvement in one's own stature. Moreover, lateral entry is allowed at the level of Associate Professor and Professor. Therefore, a researcher or a scholar who is outside the University stream will be deprived of a fair chance to get entry to the University as such candidates will now have to compete with the Unreserved Category. Thus, the denial of reservation in direct recruitment to the posts of Associate Professor and Professor violates the fundamental right to equality of OBC candidates.

A parameter that is often taken into consideration in order to justify reservation is the (in)adequacy of representation of a community (or communities) in the services under consideration. As OBCs representation is not even half the requisite percentage at the Assistant Professor level, it is obvious that there is not enough representation of OBCs in the Professor and Associate Professor level. Given that policy decisions are made by the officers who are from the higher posts (like Professor and Associate Professor), it is important to give adequate representation to OBC in order to ensure the proper implementation of the affirmative policies of the Government.

One also needs to question the basic assumption behind the claim that there should be no reservation in posts at a higher level, which seems to stem from the view that "reservation implies mediocrity" (as expressed by the former Chief Justice of India in the case of Faculty Association of AIIMS). Such a view is nothing but the perpetuation of the stereotypes based on the notion of "merit". The Counsel for AIIMS argued in the Supreme Court "there is no available data to indicate that there has been any deterioration in the quality of medical services being provided in AIIMS." Interestingly, the parties opposing reservation in AIIMS did not contest this claim. The simple truth is that there is no such data available to establish that reservation has had a negative effect on any institution or office in India. It is obviously not the case that the departments or institutions where there have been no appointments in the reserved category have performed better than those where reservation has been strictly implemented.

3. Improper implementation at Assistant Professor level

The fact that the University of Delhi has miserably failed to reach anywhere near the numerical adequacy in terms of the quantum of reservation is the biggest proof to show that the University has not implemented reservation properly. As per the "Post based Revised Recruitment Roster" uploaded on the website of the University (and which is to be effective from September 2013) there are a total of 794 Assistant Professor posts in the postgraduate departments of the University.* Chart 1 below shows the legitimate entitlement of each category. (The category-wise information regarding the posts in the cadre of Assistant Professor is given in the Table in the Appendix.)

Chart 1: The requisite share of different categories in the 794 posts in the cadre of Assistant Professor.

chart 1.1

As per information available in the Roster, only 374 posts are currently filled. Chart 2 below shows the actual share of the different categories in the 374 posts:

Chart 2: Actual Share of different categories in the 374 filled posts

chart 2.1

The unreserved category takes the lion's share of the posts that are filled. The attained percentage of different categories reads as follows: UR: 77.27%, SC: 11.76, ST: 3.74, OBC: 4.27; PH: 2.9

Only in the case of the PH category has the University reached anywhere near the requisite percentage. The difference between the requisite percentage and the attained percentage is the starkest in the case of ST (3.74 against the required 7.5) and OBC (4.27 against the required 27). The fact that unreserved positions have been filled up to the extent of 77.27 (against the required 50%) shows that the shortfall is not just due to reserved posts lying vacant. To take the worst example of violation of reservation norms, the Department of Physics has made 13 appointments after 2007 (which is the year when the University started the implementation of OBC reservation). Even as per the earlier roster, there should have been 3 (or at least 2) OBC positions. However, not a single OBC has been appointed in the Department till date.

Any attempt to bail out the University by making the excuse that the failure to attain the requisite percentage may be due to the fact that OBC reservation began to be implemented only in 2007 flies in the face of the data regarding recruitments that happened after 2007 as shown in Chart 3:

Chart 3: Category-wise break up of 152 appointments made since 2007

chart 3.1

The above chart shows that the scenario has not changed much even after 2007 as the unreserved category still gets way above the requisite percentage. The deficit is starkest in the case of OBC, where only 16 posts (i.e. 10.52% of 152) got filled as against the requisite 41 (i.e. 27% of 152). Even in the case of ST, there is a deficit as only 9 posts got filled against the requisite number of 11. However, in the case of PH, the University seems to have made some effort to address the issue of non-attainment of requisite percentage. (As shown in chart 2 above, these steps have resulted in the University almost attaining the requisite percentage with respect to the posts filled in the case of PH reservation.) Though there is slight surplus in the case of SC reservation as 25 posts got filled against the requisite 22, the University has still reached only two-third the requisite percentage in the case of SC as shown in Chart 2 above.

Thus, Chart 3 above amply testifies for the fact that the failure to attain the requisite percentage is not attributable to extraneous factors. On the contrary, a proper inquiry has to be instituted into the acts of omission and commission by the University officials and their representatives that have led to the denial of the requisite percentage of reservation.

The complicity of the University officials in the denial of the required percentage of reservation to OBC becomes even more evident if we take a look at the recruitment policies framed by the Executive Council of the University (which is the highest decision making body within the University) in its most recent meeting in September 2013. Contrary to the approved policy of identifying shortfall/backlog of vacancies and filling them up on a priority basis by maintaining a "running account" (as prescribed in R.K. Sabharwal's case), the University has moved to the post-based roster without attaining the numerical adequacy in the quantum of reservation. This violates the principle laid down by the Supreme Court that "[t]he 'running account' is to operate ... till the quota ... is reached ...." The University has decided that if unreserved category candidates are occupying posts that come under reserved points in the revised roster, such posts are to be "filled by the candidate(s) of the respective categories when the post(s) is vacated by its present occupant". This would ensure that the attainment of the requisite percentage would be impossible for the next three to four decades (if one assumes that the average age of the appointee is 30 years).

The fundamental problem in adopting the post-based roster without attaining the requisite percentage of reservation is that there is a total mismatch between the roster points in the revised roster and the category of the incumbents occupying the posts. Given the low percentage of reservation attained by the University (which means that a large number of posts that are meant for reserved categories are occupied by the unreserved category), it is obvious that the reserved categories are going to be further deprived of their legitimate share of posts.

Through Charts 4 to 8 below, I show that the unreserved category as occupied more than one-third of the posts that are earmarked for the reserved category in the revised roster. On the other hand, the reserved categories have occupied only around 10% of the posts that are unreserved in the revised roster. Adoption of the post-based roster without accommodating this imbalance in the distribution of posts will therefore lead to the deprivation of a large number of posts to the reserved categories.

Chart 4 below shows the state of the posts that are earmarked for OBC in the revised roster:

Chart 4: State of OBC Posts in the revised roster (Total 214)

chart 4.1

As shown in the above chart, only 5 out of 214 posts for OBC are currently filled by OBC. Nearly half the OBC posts are lying vacant, and the University has advertized for most of them. However, what is of concern is the fact that 94 posts earmarked for OBC are currently filled by other categories, with the unreserved category with 78 posts getting the lion's share in it. Given that only 16 OBC appointments have been made till date, it is evident that only 11 OBC appointments are made against the roster points belonging to other categories. Thus while OBC will be deprived of 94 posts for the three to four decades, their gain is only 11. As mentioned right at the outset, the figure will run into a more than a thousand if we take into consideration the constituent colleges of the University.

Chart 5 below shows the state of the SC posts in the revised roster:

Chart 5: State of SC posts in the revised roster (Total 119)

chart 5.1

In keeping with the general trend, half the SC posts are lying vacant. However, the matter of concern again is the large number of SC posts filled by the unreserved category, which is more than one-third of the total SC posts.

Chart 6 below shows the state of ST posts in the revised roster:

Chart 6: State of ST posts in the revised roster (Total 59)

chart 6.1

The fact that none of the ST posts are currently occupied by ST exposes the folly of moving into a post-based roster without attaining the requisite percentage. The regular pattern of more than half the posts lying vacant and UR eating up the lion's share is repeated in the case of ST posts as well.

Chart 7 below sums up the state of the all the reserved category posts in the revised roster (excluding the posts earmarked for PH):

Chart 7: State of the reserved category posts (Total 392)

chart 7.1

More than half the reserved category posts are lying vacant. However, the unreserved category has taken a large share of the filled posts. All the reserved categories together have got only 10.9 percentage of the total number of reserved posts (i.e. 23 + 8 + 8 + 4 = 43 out of 394). On the contrary, unreserved category has occupied more than one-third the posts earmarked for reserved categories (i.e. 139 out of 394).

The trend of more than one third of the posts earmarked for a category being occupied by the other categories is reversed if we take a look at the state of unreserved posts as shown by Chart 8:

Chart 8: State of UR posts (Total 394)

chart 8.1

In the above chart, we see that all the reserved categories together occupy just above 10% of the unreserved posts (i.e. 41 out of 394). Thus, the unreserved category has 90% of the unreserved category posts are readily available. Added to this, they also occupy 139 posts (which is around 17% of the total posts) earmarked for the reserved categories.

Thus two major problems in the implementation of reservation in the University of Delhi stand exposed: (1) the lopsidedness of the recruitment policy adopted by the University; and (2) the unfairness of the new policies formulated to fill up the vacant posts. Even if we shed our misgivings about the University's policies, and assume that all the advertized reserved category posts do get filled up in the next round of interviews (which, as experience tells us, is hardly likely to be the case), the chart is not going to look like the one shown right at the outset of this article. Here is a comparison of the two charts (Chart 1 repeated here for convenience):

Chart 1: The requisite share of different categories in the 794 posts in the cadre of Assistant Professor.

chart 9.1.2

Chart 9: Projected share if all the advertized posts get filled

chart 10.1

As shown in Chart 9 above, even the most optimistic supporter of social justice has not much to cheer about. The unreserved category will continue to occupy more than 10% of its share. OBC will be the most hardly hit as it has just above half its requisite share. SC, ST, and PH will also be below the requisite share. And one should remember that this scenario is not likely to change in the next three to four decades. As a public funded university, one would expect the policy framers of the University to take steps to rectify this. Paradoxically, this unfortunate scenario is the result of the post-based replacement system adopted by the University without giving priority to attaining numerical adequacy.

Supporters of social justice within the University of Delhi are already agitated about this injustice. In fact, several groups of SC, ST, and OBC teachers have already come together to oppose the devious moves as a formation in the name of "Delhi University Teachers for Strict Implementation of Reservation". The group organized a protest rally within the University on the 18th of October, and has given memorandums to the officials within the University and also to the Visitor of the University, the Union HRD Minister, the National Commissions for SC, ST, and OBC, and the members of the Parliamentary Committees for SC, ST, and OBC. A positive response is yet to be seen. Let us hope the tide will turn in favour for the socially oppressed classes in the next few weeks to come.


In this paper, I have shown how the University of Delhi has been making the reservation policy ineffectual by implementing it improperly by means of deference of the attainment of the requisite percentage by framing policies that blatantly violate Government of India norms. As mentioned right at the outset, the data from the postgraduate departments was shown as a representative sample. If the anomalies in the implementation of reservation in the Central Universities are not rectified immediately, it is going to be a severe loss for the socially underprivileged classes of our society as thousands of teaching posts are going to be filled in the next few months. It is high time that the Union Government standardized the reservation policy and brought in a proper legislation to ensure that it is implemented uniformly all over the country. The socially underprivileged classes should be given representation in all the services they are under-represented in order to ensure their adequate representation. And representation is of paramount importance in higher positions that wield power and influence policy decisions.

* http://www.du.ac.in/fileadmin/DU/about_du/PDF/25102013_EstabIV_Roster-Assistant%20Professor.pdf (Accessed on November 11, 2013).


Status of posts in the cadre of Assistant Professor as shown in the revised Roster uploaded by the University in its website.

*The figure for PH is given as per the information available in the Roster prepared by the University. The number of PH posts should be 23 if 3% has to be attained.



Hany Babu teaches in the Department of English, Delhi University, and is Secretary, Academic Forum for Social Justice. He can be contacted at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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