Case Description

The Supreme Court will settle whether an entire University or only a specific department is the ‘Unit’ for reservation in teaching appointments.


The University Grants Commission (UGC) Guidelines required reservation to be applied cadre-wise at each level (Professor, Assistant Professor etc.), by treating the entire University as a ‘Unit’.


Banaras Hindu University followed the UGC Guidelines and considered the entire University as a ‘Unit’ for applying reservation to teaching posts. This was challenged before the Allahabad High Court in Vivekanand Tiwari v Union of India


In April 2017, a Division Bench of the Allahabad High Court - comprising Justices Vikram Nath and Daya Shankar Tripathi - held that reservation must be applied department/subject-wise; treating the specific post, and not the entire University, as a ‘Unit’. The Bench held that the creation of cadres for applying reservation violated Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution due to the creation of discrimination and arbitrariness. Further, it stated that the creation of cadres for applying reservation was impractical since teaching posts for different disciplines are non-transferable and non-competitive. It observed that the UGC Guidelines were in conflict with the law since they directed the “blanket” application of reservation onto non-interchangeable posts ‘clubbed’ for the purpose of cadre level structuring. It also appeared to indirectly suggest that reservation must not apply to teaching posts.


In June 2017, the Supreme Court Bench upheld the Allahabad High Court’s judgment. Consequently, in September 2017 the Union Government directed the UGC to examine the issues outlined by the Allahabad High Court. The UGC amended its guidelines in March 2018 to make the department/subject the ‘Unit’ for application of reservation. However, in April 2018, the Union Government decided to file a Special Leave Petition in the Supreme Court to challenge the High Court’s judgment. 


In February 2019, a 2 judge Bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justices UU Lalit and Indira Banerjee dismissed the special leave petition and subsequent review petitions.


In March 2019, the Union Government notified an ordinance which directs that the ‘Unit’ for application of reservation is the entire University. The Supreme Court Bench comprising Justices S. A. Bobde and Sanjiv Khanna refused to entertain a plea challenging the ordinance. 

Parties Involved

1. Should the entire University or only the department be considered as the 'Unit' for applying reservation to teaching and equivalent posts in Universities?