The word ‘reservation’ comes from the word ‘reserve.’ In India, the policy of reservation refers to the reserving of seats in educational institutions, government, and administrative jobs for those people who belong from socially and economically backward communities.
Reservation is a form of affirmative action which puts to practice the tenants of substantive equality. Indian population is one of the most diverse in the world. Differences in caste, sex, social standing, and others are the root causes of oppression of one community of people by the other. Historically, numerous groups of people have been deprived of their rights, and the widespread discrimination against them has rendered them at the bottom of the societal hierarchy. To enable the upward social mobility of the people belonging to these sections, the policy of reservation plays a vital role.
History of Reservation Policy in India:
Reservation in India can be traced back to the early years of the twentieth century. In 1902, the Maharaja of the princely state of Kolhapur introduced a form of reservation in educational institutions to non-Brahmins and other backward classes. Another significant milestone in pre-independence India was set by the round table conference of 1932 which proposed the Communal Award. Based on this proposition by Ramsay MacDonald, there was separate representation provided to the Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Anglo-Indians, and other minority communities.
Basis of Reservation Policy in India:
In India, seats in educational institutions and government jobs and promotions are reserved for certain sections of the population. These sections belong from groups of people who have traditionally occupied lower strata of the Indian society. The communities for whom seats are reserved differ from state to state. However, broadly, the following constitute the bases for reservation within India:
- Caste (includes people belonging to Schedule Castes, Scheduled Tribes or Other Backward Communities)
- Religion (includes people belonging to minority religious communities, for example, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Parsis, Buddhists, Jains and so on)
- Gender (can include women and non-binary and transgender people)
- Domicile (refers to a place of living of citizens)
Provisions in the Indian Constitution:
The Indian Constitution lays down certain provisions for the upliftment of the socially disadvantaged communities. Articles 14, Article 15, and Article 16 of the Indian Constitution uphold the ideas of equal treatment and prohibition of discrimination. Article 17 bans the practice of Untouchability in any form. The purpose of the inclusion of these articles is to enforce the idea of equality for all citizens. However, for communities and groups that have been historically disadvantaged to achieve equality in the real sense, there exist certain exceptions to the aforementioned articles in the Constitution.
Article 15 prohibits discrimination based on ‘religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth, or any of them.’ However, there are certain exceptions to this provision that have been incorporated in the sub-clauses of the article itself. They read as:
15(3) Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any special provision for women and children.
(4) Nothing in this article or clause ( 2 ) of Article 29 shall prevent the State from making any special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes. 
Article 16 of the Indian Constitution ensures equality in matters of public employment. Herein also exist certain exceptions for the benefit of individuals belonging from backward classes.
16(3)Nothing in this article shall prevent Parliament from making any law prescribing, in regard to a class or classes of employment or appointment to any office under the Government of, or any local or other authority within, a State or Union territory, any requirement as to residence within that State or Union territory prior to such employment or appointment
(4) Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any provision for the reservation of appointments or posts in favor of any backward class of citizens which, in the opinion of the State, is not adequately represented in the services under the State
(5) Nothing in this article shall affect the operation of any law which provides that the incumbent of an office in connection with the affairs of any religious or denominational institution or any member of the governing body thereof shall be a person professing a particular religion or belonging to a particular denomination
Part XVI (Article 330- 342) of the Indian Constitution provides for various reservation of seats in the house of people and legislative assembly, along with special provisions relating to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, Anglo Indian Community, about setting up of National Commissions. 
The Mandal Commission:
The Mandal Commission was formed in 1979, to recognize socially and economically backward classes within India. The total percentage of people recognized as OBCs, as per the report of the commission was 52 percent. It was also suggested that people from the Other Backward Communities be granted 27 percent of all central government jobs.
However, this suggestion did not formally come into force before the Indra Sawhney vs. Union of India judgment of 1993. This nine bench Supreme Court judgment was responsible for the inclusion of article 16(4A) and 16(4B) within the Indian Constitution. The Court also held that the total percentage of reservation should not increase 50 percent; otherwise, it would be deemed unconstitutional.
Reservation has been a very controversial topic in India for the past few decades. Reservation aims at the upliftment of people belonging to socially, economically, or politically disadvantaged groups or communities. In a country like India where the caste system and Untouchability were widely practiced up until recently, it is essential to bring people from marginalized communities to the same level ground as those who have traditionally occupied a place of advantage in the power dynamics. The crux of reservation policy in India, therefore, lies in the provision of benefits to those sections of the population that deserve it.
 The Constitution of India, art. 17
 The Constitution of India, Art. 15
 The Constitution of India, Art. 16
 The Constitution of India, Part XVI
 Indra Swahney v. UOI AIR 1993 SC 477