The UPSC reserves certain seats for the reserved category candidates in the civil services. There are seats reserved for OBC, SC, ST and physically handicapped categories. Generally, the cut-off marks required are lower for the reserved category candidates than for the general candidates. What happens if a reserved candidate gets marks higher than the general cut-off? Read on to know more.
First of all, it is prudent to understand that the general category is not really a category. It is better to call it “open” or “unreserved” category. Basically, all the candidates, irrespective of their category (reserved or unreserved status) compete for these seats. (The general category is not reserved at all; everyone competes for those seats.) However, the reserved seats are open to only candidates from the community or category for which the seats are reserved. So, when a person from a reserved community, say from the OBC category gets an AIR of 1, he/she would be put in the general list. Such a candidate (i.e., a candidate from the reserved category but who qualifies for CSE on his/her own merit alone without availing any relaxation like maximum age limit, number of attempts, etc. is called General Merit (GM) or Meritorious Reserved Category (MRC) candidate.
Let us take another scenario. Let us suppose a person from the OBC category gets an AIR of say, 100. Now assume the general last rank that year for the IAS is 95 and it is 350 for the OBC. In this case, the candidate can be put in the general list for any lower service. But as per court rules, he/she can migrate to his/her own category and opt for a higher service like the IAS. This is as per Rule 16 (2) of the CSE Rules. According to this rule, “While making service allocation, candidates belonging to SC/ST or OBCs recommended against unreserved candidates may be adjusted against reserved vacancies by the government if by this process they get a service of higher choice in the order of their preference.”
The Supreme Court has also upheld this rule. As per a Constitutional Bench comprising of the then Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justices P. Sathasivam, S.H. Kapadia, B. Sudershan Reddy and R.V. Raveendran: “The reserved candidates belonging to the OBC/SC/ST categories who are selected on merit and placed in the list of general/unreserved category can choose to migrate to the respective reserved category at the time of allocation of services. Such migration as envisaged under Rule 16 (2) is not inconsistent with Rule 16 (1) or Articles 14, 16 (4) and 335 of the Constitution.”
Once the MRC candidates choose to migrate to their own categories they will be counted as part of the reserved pool for calculating the aggregate reservation quotas. The general seats they vacate will only be offered to general category candidates. This is to maintain the percentage of reservation intact. Again, it must be remembered that this seat can be filled by anybody who has got the required rank as it belongs to the “general” or “unreserved” section.
It is also important to point out that candidates who have taken the reservation benefit of age limit or number of attempts, etc. cannot be put under the general merit list. They will be counted as part of the reserved pool.