This is the third edition of a painstakingly researched and remarkably comprehensive book on the Indian experiment with constitutionally sanctioned policies of preferential treatment/ compensatory discrimination/ affirmative action on behalf of the historically oppressed and excluded castes and classes of the country. The policies were meant originally to be transitional arrangements, the nation's ultimate goal being the establishment of a casteless and classless society. The way things turned out however, both caste and class have remained deeply entrenched as legal, administrative, political, and social realities. The book traces the pre - independence history of the developing concern for the 'depressed classes' in the first part of the twentieth century, the debates in the Constituent Assembly, and goes on to a critical analysis of the first thirty years of the constitutional regime of preferential treatment for identified beneficiaries - Scheduled Castes/ Scheduled Tribes/ other Backward Classes - in the fields of legislative representation, employment, education, and government service.
The book's special emphasis is on the role of the higher judiciary and its interventions in the course of cases arising from the policy of reservation, as well as the constitutional context of fundamental rights. This edition includes a preface written by the author for the second (paperback) edition published in 1991, following the controversy over the proposal to implement the Mandal Commission Report. It also includes a new introduction summing up the current situation.