A. Periakaruppan v. State of Tamil Nadu

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 23/09/1970

COURT: Supreme Court of India

JUDGES: K Hegde

REFERENCE: 1971 AIR 2303

PARTIES

Petitioner: A. Periakaruppan

Respondent: State of Tamil Nadu

SUBJECT: The petitioner challenged the validity of reservation made on the basis of backward and more backward classes for admissions to medical colleges in Tamil Nadu.

FACTS: The petitioners in present case are medical college students who were unsuccessful in getting admission into the colleges they desired for, despite of them being academically qualified for the same. The availability of medical seats in Tamil Nadu are as follows:

  • Madras- 500
  • Madurai- 200
  • Chengalpat- 50
  • Coimbatore- 100
  • Thanjavur – 200
  • Tirunelveli- 75

Which amounts to a total of 1125 seats out of which few were reserved for certain backward class students which are not disputed in the present case. However, another 41 seats were reserved for another category of backward class which amounts to discrimination.

About 7,000 students applied for these limited seats. The admission process happens to be on State wise allocation. However, in 1967-68 the admission was made district wise. As such practices promoted discrimination on the basis of place of origin it was declared unconstitutional by the SC in the case of Minor P. Rajendran v. State of Madras and another. Thereafter the selection was made on the basis of “unit wise” allocation, wherein all colleges in Madras constituted a single unit while each college in mofussil constitute distinct units. A separate committee was formed for each and every unit to interview the students. All students were advised to apply to only one committee even if they applied to more than one committee the government will forward the application only to one committee. They were further advised to apply to those colleges which was nearer to their place of residence. But due the unreasonable classification of backward class and more backward class many students who had remarkable academic records were denied admission to reputed medical colleges. Hence, they filed a petition under Article 32 challenging the validity of unit wise admission.

IMPORTANT PROVISIONS:

The Indian Constitution:

  • Article 32: Remedies for enforcement of rights conferred by Part III

(1) The right to move the Supreme Court by appropriate proceedings for the enforcement of the rights conferred by this Part is guaranteed

(2) The Supreme Court shall have power to issue directions or orders or writs, including writs in the nature of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto and certiorari, whichever may be appropriate, for the enforcement of any of the rights conferred by Part III

  • Article 14: The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India
  • Article 15(1): The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them
ISSUES:
  1. Whether classification on the basis of backward class and more backward class is violative of Article 14 and 15 of the Constitution?
JUDGEMENT:

The petitioner contended that,

  • The interview conducted by the committee is only for 3 minutes which is insufficient to assess a candidate. Further the Committees did not follow any uniform criteria of selection.
  • The unit wise scheme of allocation is similar to that of district wise allocation, the name change was a tool to get rid of the SC’s judgment in Minor P. Rajendran v. State of Madras and another
  • Further the sub classification of backward class as more backward class was merely made on the basis of caste which does not conform with Article 15(4) of the Constitution and impermissible in law. Further it does not have any nexus with the object sought to be achieved by the legislation.
  • The committee made unreasonable delay in issuing the consolidated list of selected candidates.

The respondents contended that,

  • The unit wise classification was made for administrative convenience.
  • The sub classification of backward and more backward class was to enable the socially disadvantaged class to access dignified life and equality in the society.
  • The Committee does follow a patter of selection which includes marks in optional subjects such as Physics, Chemistry, Biology and the following:
  1. Sports or National Cadet Corps activities
  2. Extra Curricular special services.
  3. General physical condition and endurance
  4. General ability
  5. Aptitude.

Upon hearing the parties to the case, the Court held that, it is an accepted fact that, Article 15(1) prohibits discrimination on the basis of caste alone. But when a classification is made for the welfare of socially and economically backward class the classification becomes valid under Article 15(4). However, a particular caste should not be declared socially backward at all times, if considered it would defeat the purpose of providing reservation. Hence the list is to be reviewed constantly and those who have benefited from the reservation policy have to be removed from time to time. The Court further held that, since the selected students have started attending their classes the selection process cannot be nullified. However, 24 seats were still vacant and those 80 students who were put in waiting list by the Committee may alone be assessed by a fresh committee appointed by this Court for admission.

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