Domicile-based job quota: the law, SC rulings, and special cases

News: The Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh has announced that the government jobs will be reserved for the “children” of the state and legal provisions will be made for the same.


What does the Constitution say: Article 16 in the Constitution of India refers to equality of opportunity in government jobs.

  • Article 16(1): It provides for equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to ’employment or appointment’ to any office under the State.
  • Article 16(2): It provides that there cannot be any discrimination on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, residence or any of them.
  • Article 16(3): It provides an exception by saying that Parliament may make a law “prescribing” a requirement of residence for jobs in a particular state.This power vests solely in the Parliament, not state legislatures.

Supreme Court Judgements:

  • Dr Pradeep Jain v Union of India,1984: The Supreme Court discussed the issue of legislation for “sons of the soil”.It expressed an opinion that such policies would be unconstitutional but did not expressly rule on it as the case was on different aspects of the right to equality.
  • Sunanda Reddy v State of Andhra Pradesh (1995): The Supreme Court affirmed the observation in Pradeep Jain to strike down a state government policy that gave 5% extra weightage to candidates who had studied with Telugu as the medium of instruction.
  • In 2019, the Allahabad High Court struck down a recruitment notification issued by the Uttar Pradesh Subordinate Service Selection Commission which prescribed preference for women who were original residents of the state.

States Reserving Jobs for Locals: Some states have been using the loopholes in the laws to reserve government jobs for locals:

  • Public Employment (Requirement as to Residence) Act: Exercising the powers under Article 16(3), Parliament enacted the act aimed at abolishing all existing residence requirements in the states and enacting exceptions only in the case of the special instances of Andhra Pradesh, Manipur, Tripura and Himachal Pradesh.
  • Language: States have gone around the mandate of Article 16(2) by using language.States that conduct official business in their regional languages prescribe knowledge of the language as a criterion. 
    • This ensures that local citizens are preferred for jobs. For example, states including Maharashtra, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu require a language test.
  • Special protections under Article 371: Some states have special protections under Article 371. Andhra Pradesh under Section 371(d) has powers to have “direct recruitment of local cadre” in specified areas.
  • Jammu and Kashmir: The Central Government has issued a notification reserving jobs for J&K domiciles expanding the definition to central government employees who had served in the erstwhile state for over 10 years.