Reservation based on State Domicile

Reservation based on state domicile is not a new phenomenon in India. With ideas like Sons of the Soil Theory and regionalism that exist in our country even today, there is near to no merit in abolishing the act of reservation based on state domicile. The judicial take on it has also varied over time. The Supreme Court has put forth various guidelines in the matter of reservation based on state domicile, both in favour of it and against it. These are based mainly in terms of domicile-based reservation in cases of educational institutions.

In the case of DP Joshi v State of Madhya Pradesh[1], two major contentions were raised; How exactly is one to prove domicile and is the practice of domicile reservation violative of right to equality[2] and right against discrimination.[3] The Court said in order to claim domicile, one should have lived in said state for at least 5 years and should not have domicile anywhere else. With respect to the second issue, the Court held that Article 15(1) prevents the State from discriminating on place of birth. According to the reasoning of the Court, the practice of reservation based on state of domicile was based on place of residence and not place of birth. The same reasoning was used in the case of N. Vasundara v. State of Mysore[4]

The case of Dr. Pradeep Jain v Union of India[5], was a landmark judgement in terms of domicile reservation in educational institutions. It was held that “It is dangerous to use a legal concept for conveying a sense different that which is ordinarily associated with it as a result of legal usage over the years. Therefore, it is strongly urged upon the State Government to exercise this wrong use of the expression “domicile” from the rules regulating admissions to their educational institutions and particularly medical colleges and to desist from introducing and maintaining domiciliary requirement as a condition of eligibility for such admissions.”[6]

In the Sunanda Reddy v State of Andhra Pradesh[7], the Supreme Court upheld the decision of the Dr. Pradeep Jain case[8] and struck down the reservation that was provided to students who took up Telugu as the main language.[9]

The Supreme Court had differing views in terms of the domicile-based reservation for educational institutions, however took a very strong stand against domicile-based reservation in terms of public employment.

In 2019, the Allahabad High Court struck down a notice that gave preference to ‘original residents of the state.’[10] The decision of the Division Bench at the Karnataka High Court to “strike down the National Law School of Indian University (Amendment) Act, 2020 that reserved 25% of seats in NLS for “students of Karnataka” only”[11] are all examples of Courts deciding against the practice of domicile-based reservation

In a time when reservation by itself is seen as an infringement on the right to equality[12], state domicile reservation seems unfair to majority of the people. It is definitely the responsibility of the State government to protect the interests of the people belonging to that state, however denying others a chance based on their place of birth of their place of residence even is wrong. ‘The State subsequently has deprived the meritorious class through an unreasonable and perverse domicile reservation. This marks the departure from the field of justness, fairness and reasonableness guaranteed by the rule of law that is supposed to be supreme in our constitutional set-up.’[13] State domicile reservation which first extended only in the field of education has now been extended to employment opportunities. In a time and era where equality is said to be upheld and unity is said to be celebrated, state domicile reservation successfully creates a fracture between people on terms of their region. This does not been one’s region should not be celebrated; it is understood that every culture, ethnicity, should be respected, celebrated and protected but not at the cost of equality.

It is understood that while ‘some reservations may still be necessary for the socio-political condition in India, reservation on the basis of domicile or residence within a State for admissions to universities of national importance would be highly discriminatory and utterly perverse.’[14] Merit should be given more importance, it is extremely unfair for a less meritorious student to be offered the chance to study in a prestigious university or institution and a meritorious student to be denied the same admission citing the place of residence. Merit must be allowed to reach its full extend.[15]


[1] DP Joshi v State of Madhya Padesh; 1955 AIR 334

[2] Constitution of India, 1950; Article 14

[3] Constitution of India, 1950; Article 15

[4] N. Vasundara v. State of Mysore; (1971) 2 SCC 22

[5] Dr Pradeep Jain v Union of India;(1984) IILLJ 481 SC

[6] Id

[7] Sunanda Reddy v State of Andhra Pradesh; 1995 AIR 914

[8] Dr Pradeep Jain; Supra 13

[9] Abdul; Domicile-based job quota: the law,SC Rulings, and special cases; FactlyFormulas(August 20, 2020); https://factly.forumias.com/domicile-based-job-quota-the-law-sc-rulings-and-special-cases/

[10] Reservations based on Place of Birth; Drishti IAS; https://www.drishtiias.com/daily-updates/daily-news-analysis/reservations-based-on-place-of-birth

[11] Aman Garg; What are the Flaws in the Justifications of Domicile Reservation; The Leaflet; (October 8, 2020); https://www.theleaflet.in/what-are-the-flaws-in-the-justifications-of-domicile-reservation/#

[12] Supra 7

[13] Sankalp Udgata; “Reservation on basis of State Domicile: A Practice Unfair to People and Unexpected of Governments”; SCC Online; (July 15, 2020); https://www.scconline.com/blog/post/2020/07/15/reservation-on-the-basis-of-state-domicile-a-practice-unfair-to-people-and-unexpected-of-governments/

[14] Id

[15] Saurabh Chaudri v. Union of India(2003) 11 SCC 146

Aishwarya Says:

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