A Women Candidates Belonging to Reserved Category, is Entitled to Fill General/Open Category Vacancies: SC

A women candidates belonging to reserved category, is entitled to fill general/open category vacancies also, noted the Apex Court.

Brief Facts of the Case

This case is in relation to the selection process undertaken by State of Uttar Pradesh to fill up 41,610 posts of Police Constables.

An OBC female and SC female candidates Ms. Sonam Tomar and Ms. Reeta Rani who had partaken in the Selection Process had come up to the Court aggrieved with non-consideration of their claim against the posts intended for General Category female candidates.

Observation made by the Court

Reliance was placed by the Court to its various previous verdicts and also the pronouncements of High Court that dealt with the issue of vertical and horizontal reservation. Referring the precedents Court noted that:

The principle that candidates belonging to any of the vertical reservation categories are entitled to be selected in “Open or General Category” is well settled. It is also well accepted that if such candidates belonging to reserved categories are entitled to be selected on the basis of their own merit, their selection cannot be counted against the quota reserved for the categories for vertical reservation that they belong.

The court noted that the High Courts of Rajasthan, Bombay, Uttarakhand, and Gujarat have adopted the same principle ( of vertical reservation) while dealing with horizontal reservation whereas the High Court of Allahabad and Madhya Pradesh have taken a contrary view. According to the second view, at the stage of accommodating candidates for effecting horizontal reservation, the candidates from reserved categories can be adjusted only against their own categories under the concerned vertical reservation and not against the “Open or General Category”.

 Condemning the horizontal reservation, the bench observed:

“The second view may lead to a situation where, while making adjustment for horizontal reservation in Open or General Category seats, less meritorious candidates may be adjusted, as has happened in the present matter. Admittedly, the last selected candidates in Open General female category while making adjustment of horizontal reservation had secured lesser marks than the Applicants. The claim of the Applicants was disregarded on the ground that they could claim only and only if there was a vacancy or chance for them to be accommodated in their respective column of vertical reservation”

“The second view, based on adoption of a different principle at the stage of horizontal reservation as against one accepted to be a settled principle for vertical reservation, may thus lead to situations where a less meritorious candidate, not belonging to any of the reserved categories, may get selected in preference to a more meritorious candidate coming from a reserved category.”


For that reason, the court ruled that all candidates coming from ‘OBC Female Category’ who had secured more marks than the marks secured by the last candidate appointed in ‘General Category–Female’ must be offered employment as Constables in Uttar Pradesh Police.

“The quota provided for women, as well as dependents of freedom fighters (DFF) and ex-servicemen, in the present case are characterized as ‘horizontal’ whereas the quotas for social groups (SCs, STs, OBCs) are characterized as ‘vertical’. The coining of this differential terminology is underscored by the fact that the latter is sanctioned explicitly in Article 16(4), whereas the former is evolved through a process of permissible classification (Articles 14, 16(1)), although such horizontal reservations have been located additionally in Article 15(3)14”

Rejecting the State’s contention that the women candidates who are entitled to benefit of social category reservations, cannot fill open category vacancies, Justice Ravindra Bhat observed.

“I would conclude by saying that reservations, both vertical and horizontal, are method of ensuring representation in public services. These are not to be seen as rigid “slots”, where a candidate’s merit, which otherwise entitles her to be shown in the open general category, is foreclosed, as the consequence would be, if the state’s argument is accepted. Doing so, would result in a communal reservation, where each social category is confined within the extent of their reservation, thus negating merit. The open category is open to all, and the only condition for a candidate to be shown in it is merit, regardless of whether reservation benefit of either type is available to her or him,” he further added.


Citation: M.A. NO.2641 OF 2019 of SLP (CIVIL)NO.23223 OF 2018

CORAM: Justices Uday Umesh Lalit, S. Ravindra Bhat and Hrishikesh Roy

A women candidates belonging to reserved category, is entitled to fill general/open category vacancies: SC

Also Read: The Apex Court Condemned The Custom Of Pronouncing The Operative Part Without Reasoned Judgment

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