Bom HC | Maharashtra Government’s Order restricting benefit of fee reimbursement to only those backward class students who have taken admission through CAP, declared arbitrary and discriminatory 

Bombay High Court: While deciding the constitutional validity of Government Resolution (hereinafter GR), dated 27-02-2013 which restricted the benefit of fee reimbursement to only those SC, ST, and OBC students who have taken admission in various colleges through the Common Admission Procedure (hereinafter CAP); the Full Bench of A.A. Sayed, D.S. Naidu and P.D. Naik, JJ., held that the impugned G.R. is arbitrary and discriminatory. The Court therefore set it aside to the extent it deprives the non-CAP SC students of the benefits.

The instant petition was filed by 26 students who took admission in the Sanghvi College (a Gujarati Linguistic Minority institute) without taking part in the CAP as the aforementioned college had its own admission procedure. For the benefit of SC, ST and OBC students pursuing professional courses, the State Government had introduced the policy of fee reimbursements; however via the impugned G.R. the State Government restricted this benefit to only those SC, ST, and OBC students that had taken admission through the CAP. It was contended by the counsel for the petitioners Birendra Saraf that, the impugned GR is discriminatory as well as arbitrary and lacks intelligible differentia and reasonable classification, thereby violating Art.14 of the Constitution. It was further contended that distinction between SC and ST students admitted through CAP and those admitted otherwise through CAP be tantamount to creating categories in the castes enlisted by the President under Art. 341 of the Constitution and is illegal. The Government via their counsel Girish Godbole submitted that, the Government’s objective is to ensure that the fee reimbursement should go to the backward class students who have secured admission through “a transparent, well-documented, well regulated, and non-discriminated CAP”. According to the Government, the student securing admission under CAP and those outside CAP form two different classes and cannot be treated at par. They further contended that, “the concept of equality has an inherent limitation arising from the very nature of the constitutional guarantee. Only those who are similarly situated are entitled to equal treatment”.   

Perusing the contentions of the parties and a plethora of Supreme Court decisions on Articles 14, 15 and 16, the Court observed that, it failed to find any logic in the State’s contentions that student securing admission under CAP and those outside CAP form two different classes. A classification must not be ‘arbitrary, artificial or evasive’, it must always rest upon some real and substantial distinction bearing a just and reasonable nexus to the object sought to be achieved. The Court delved into the question that by creating the aforementioned classification, what object the Government sought to achieve? It was observed that Government had failed to prove that those that get admission through non-CAP are less meritorious. CAP and non-CAP admissions are simply two modes of admission with legitimacy and legality. Therefore the impugned G.R. fails the intelligible differentia and reasonable classification test. The Bench further noted that, “The Government providing the fee reimbursement benefit to the SC students is not merit based. It is simply disability based—the social disability of caste. Nor can the Government successfully sustain a plea that the SC students getting admitted through CAP are more meritorious. Merit is not the distinguishing factor between CAP and non-CAP admissions.” [Yash Pramesh Rana v. State of Maharashtra, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 678, decided on 29-05-2020]   

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