Kerala High Court: N. Nagaresh, J., held that it is by virtue of the statute mandating reservation for disabled persons that persons with disability are treated as a homogenous class irrespective of social classification and such a valid classification cannot be sought to be impeached by way of linking it with Article 16 or Article 15 to claim on same reservation for SC/ST candidates.

Factual Matrix

The petitioner, a participant of NEET Examination, 2021 belonged to Scheduled Caste community. The grievance of the petitioner was that as per the Prospectus and various Government Orders, 10% of the Government seats in Government Medical Colleges were reserved for SC/ST candidates; however, the reservation provided by the State was discriminatory in nature. The petitioner alleged that while providing reservation to persons with disabilities, the respondent adopted a criterion to reserve 5% of the seats available after leaving the seats set apart under Clauses 4.1.1 and 4.1.2. However, while granting reservation to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, the respondent adopted a different criteria under Clause 4.1.5 by reserving seats leaving the seats set apart under Clauses 4.1.1, 4.1.2, 4.1.3 and 4.1.4 resulting in marginal reduction of number of seats reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

Therefore, the petitioner challenged the Clause 4.1.5 of the Prospectus on the ground that the two classes entitled for reservation were discriminated among them and such adoption of criteria lead to the marginal decrease in the available seats for the SC/ST candidates. The petitioners argued that the condition prescribed in Clause 4.1.5 of was highly arbitrary, unreasonable and violative of the principle of equality enshrined in Article 14 of the Constitution and hence liable to be interdicted.

On the contrary, the State argued that it is for the State to decide as to how the principle of reservation is to be applied and the petitioners cannot maintain a prayer seeking a direction to adopt different criteria from that adopted by the State as the State has sufficient authority to decide how the principle of vertical reservation should be applied.

Analysis and Observations

Persons having disability form a homogenous class by themselves where disability is not on the basis of social backwardness but on the basis of physical disability. Noticing that the claim of the petitioners for reservation was traceable to Article 15 which is an enabling right, while the claim of the PWD persons traces to a statute promulgated for the purpose of implementation of a Constitutional mandate, the Bench held that such a valid classification cannot be sought to be impeached by way of linking it with Article 16 or Article 15.

Therefore, the Bench concluded there was no violation of Article 14, as it postulates equal treatment for equally placed persons that is to say unequals can be treated unequally. The Bench observed,

“Persons claiming social reservation fall in one compartment and persons with disabilities who are included in the quota fall on a different distinct compartment so there arises no question of violation of Article 14 of the Constitution.”

Further, the Bench emphasised that reservation itself is not a matter of right and the Constitutional provision is only enabling in nature. The State can provide for separate and exclusive channels of entry or sources of admission, the validity whereof cannot be determined on the constitutional principles applicable to communal reservations.

Accordingly, it was held that such two channels of entry or two sources of admission were valid provisions, when the classification was based on an intelligible differentia with a laudable object sought to be achieved. The petition was dismissed for being devoid of merit. [Sumith V Kumar v. State of Kerala, WP(C) No. 21885 of 2021, decided on 11-01-2022]

Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

Appearance by:

For the Petitioner: K.Siju, S.Abhilash and Anjana Kannath, Advocates

For the Respondents: P.G.Pramod, Government Pleader and Titus Mani for R7

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