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M.R Balaji and Ors. Vs State of Mysore

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Citations: M.R Balaji and Ors Vs State of Mysore, AIR 1963 SC 649

Date of Judgment: 28/09/1962

Equivalent Citations:  1963 AIR 649, 1962 SCR Supl. (1) 439

Case No: Writ Petition Nos. 90 to 112 of 1962

Case Type: Writ Petition

Petitioner/Appellant: M.R Balaji and Ors.

Defendant/Respondent: State of Mysore

Bench: Hon’ble Justice B.P Sinha, Hon’ble Justice J.C. Shah, Hon’ble Justice K.C Das Gupta, Hon’ble Justice K.N. Wanchoo and Hon’ble Justice P.B. Gajendragadkar

Court: Supreme Court of India

Statutes Referred:

  • The Constitution of India; Articles 12, 15(4), 16, 16(4), 29, 46, 338, 3401(1), 341, 342, 366

Cases referred:

  • Ramakrishna Singh Vs The state of Mysore, AIR 1960 Mysore 338
  • S.A. Partha Vs State of Mysore, AIR 1961 Mysore 220
  • Champakam Dorairajan Vs State of Madras, AIR 1951 SC 226
  • General Manage, Southern Railway Vs Rangachari,1962 2 SCR 586

Facts:

  • The State Government of Mysore passed an order on 26 July 1958 which placed all the communities, except the Brahmin community, in the category of educationally and socially backward classes, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. It reserved 75% of the total seats in educational institutions for these communities. After which, different orders with similar schemes but varying percentages of reservation were passed in the following years. All these orders were, however, challenged and set aside.
  • But the Mysore Government once again issued an order in 1962, which replaced all the previous orders relating to the reservation of seats that were issued by the Government under Article 15(4). By the said order, the State classified the backward classes into two categories, namely, backward classes and more backward classes. Further, it reserved 68% of the seats for socially and educationally backward classes, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the State Engineering and Medical Colleges, while leaving just 32% of the seats for the merit pool.
  • This order of the State of Mysore was challenged by 23 petitioners before the Supreme Court through a writ petition under Article 32 of the Constitution of India. Out of these 23 petitioners, 6 were the applicants for admission in Medical Colleges affiliated either to the Mysore University or to the Karnataka University for the pre-professional class in Medicine, while the remaining 17 had applied in the University of Mysore for the five-year integrated course of Bachelor of Engineering.

Issues Involved:

  • Whether the students excluded from educational institutions on the basis of unreasonable reservation violates Article 15(4) of the Indian Constitution?
  • Whether the state has the authority to make reservations on the basis of caste being “backwards” and “more backwards”?

Contention of Petitioner:

Counsel: S. K. Venkataranya Iyengar and R. Gopalakrishnan

The counsel for Petitioner contented that:

  • Before passing any order under Article 15(4) of the Indian Constitution, the State is required to appoint a commission as provided under Article 340 of the Indian Constitution, which has to make a report recommending the steps needed to be taken to improve the conditions of Backward classes after investigating their conditions. The said report is to be then sent to the President, who is required to lay it before both the Houses of Parliament along with the memorandum explaining the action taken thereon. Thus, the special provisions for the advancement of backward classes can only be made by the President. Hence, the State was incompetent to issue the impugned order under Article 15(4) of the Indian Constitution in the present case. 
  • Even if the State can make special provisions under Article 15(4), it could only be made by legislation and not by an executive order. Except for the reservation, as provided by the impugned order, they would have succeeded to get admission in the respective colleges to which they had applied. But due to reservation even the students who had scored fewer marks than the petitioners had been admitted to the said colleges but not the petitioners themselves. 
  • The criteria applied to list out the socially and educationally backward classes among citizens of the State was unintelligible and irrational. Further, such categorisation of the backward classes is not within the purview of Article 15(4) as well as not consistent with the same. The extent of reservation as prescribed by the impugned order was too unreasonable and improvident to be justified under Article 15(4) of the Constitution

Contention of Respondent:

Counsel: G. Ethirajulu Naidu, Advocate General of the State of Mysore, B.R.L. Iyengar, D.M. Chandrasekhar and P. D. Menon

The counsel for Respondent contented that:

  • The classification made is both rational and intelligible and the reservation authorised by the order is fully justified by Article 15 (4) of the Indian Constitution. The contention that the order is a colourable exercise of the State’s power and amounts to a fraud on the Constitution is disputed.
  • The High Court directed that the applications made by the petitioners for admission to the respective colleges should be considered without reference to the said orders, but subject to the reservation for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes are made. The State then appointed a committee called the Mysore Backward Classes Committee with Dr. R. Nagan Gowda as its Chairman, to investigate the problem and advise the Government as to the criteria which should be adopted in determining the educationally and socially Backward Classes, and the special provisions which should be made for their advancement. The Committee made an interim report, the State passed an order on the 9th June, 1960 regulating admissions for that year into the professional and technical colleges.
  • The order examines the question as to the percentage which should be reserved, and it rejects the Committee’s recommendation of reservation of 68% on the ground that such a large percentage of reservation would not be in the larger interests of the State. According to the order, 48% was fixed as the total reservation in favour of the Backward Classes, the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes together, that means, 30% was reserved for the Backward Classes.
  • The percentage of reservation to the extent of 68%, which, according to the order of July 10, 1961, would have been against the larger interests of the State, has, by the impugned order, been accepted.

Judgment:

The Writ Petition was Allowed with costs.

The Supreme Court ruled against the order of the State for several reasons.

Firstly, the reservation provided was based solely on caste, without considering other factors as according to Article 15 (4) of the Indian Constitution. Although caste can be a relevant factor in determining the social backwardness of a class of citizens concerning Hindus, the only dominant test should not be done on their behalf. As far as the identification of all backward classes within the contested order was based solely on the caste, the order was ruled against. “Ultimately, social backwardness is essentially the results of poverty.”

The state-backed education backwardness test on the basis for the average student population in the high school classes of all high schools in the state per one thousand citizens of that community living in the state. The Court noted that assuming the test used was rational and permissible to assess educational backwardness but the validity was not applicable. Only a municipality which is far below the national average can be considered backwards, but not a municipality that comes close to average.

What was wrong about the order passed by the state was that it included in its list of backward classes, castes or communities, people who were slightly above or very close to or just below the national average. For example, Lingayats with an average of 7.1 percent were included in the list of backward communities whereas the national average stood at 6.9 percent.

Article 15 (4) of the Indian Constitution does not provide a classification between “backward” and “more backward” classes as done by the state order. Article 15 (4) of the Indian Constitution approves special provisions for genuinely backward classes and not for classes that are less advanced than the advanced ones in the state. By adopting the technique of classifying communities into backward and backward classes, 90% of the total population is treated as backward.

Ratio Decidendi:

  • The Court of Appeal placed great emphasis on the division of backward classes, which is not justified under Article 15 (4) of the Indian Constitution and is essentially against the power conferred by the State. The Petitioners prayed that the order of Mandamus or an instruction against the Defendant and the two selection committees be established as the order of Article 15 (4) of the Indian Constitution passed on the basis of determination made by regulation and enumeration of social and pedagogically backward classes of citizens in the State is incomprehensible and irrational and the classification made on this basis is not compatible with such determination of these provisions and outside them.
  • This claim was rejected by the State and on its behalf, it was emphasized that the classification made is rational and understandable and that the reservation required by the decision is fully justified under Article 15 (4) of the Indian Constitution.
  • The request was made by four other Petitioners so it is necessary to understand the background of the dispute between the parties. In the case of Ramakrishna Singh Vs The State of Mysore AIR 1960 Mysore 338, the State had a committee called the Mysore Backward Class Committee under the leadership of Dr. R. Nagan appointed to investigate the problem and advise the Government on criteria to be used to determine the classes pedagogically and socially back. According to the committee, 40 per cent compensated the reserve group and 60 per cent of the profit group. This order was challenged in S.A. Partha Vs State of Mysore AIR 1961 Mysore 220. The Nagan Gowda Committee then concluded that caste and communities are the only way to determine backward classes, and the communities are thus divided into “backward” and “further backward.”
  • The Committee sent the report, saying seats in the backlog of classes should be up to 70 per cent. The Central Government was not satisfied with this approach. It said that the caste system is the main obstacle to their progress as an egalitarian society. Instructions were given by the Central Government to the State, asking them to provide all possible assistance to provide members of the underdeveloped class with all appropriate facilities according to their existing list.
  • Based on these cases and the case of the Petitioner, which replaces all previous orders issued by the State, the sociological and economic factor must be taken into account when determining backward classes.
  • The Central Government wrote to the Minister of Education of Mysore on the subject of reservation under Article 15 (4) of the Indian Constitution that the government should follow a uniform policy to determine the backward classes, with 50 per cent for the profit fund and 50 per cent for the reserve.
  • In the case of Champakam Dorairajan Vs State of Madras AIR 1951 SC 226, the ruling led to the First Amendment to the Indian Constitution regarding the reservation. The SC upheld Hon’ble Madras High Court’s ruling saying that box-based reservations in government offices and university seats and the provisions of such reservations violated Article 16 (2) of the Indian Constitution.

Conclusion:

To conclude, caste plays a role in people’s social life, but castes may not be completely irrelevant to determine whether a group of citizens is a backward class. Reservation should be essentially provided to the weaker sections of the society in order to uplift them but at the same time, it should not be done by cutting the interest of the remaining sections of society.

The powers conferred on the State to provide reservation under Articles 15(4) as well as 16(4) of the Indian Constitution are to promote the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections so that they could be protected from social injustice. However, when the State provides unreasonable reservation to weaker sections, it does injustice to the other sections removing the whole principle of social equality, for which the provisions were actually introduced. 

Drafted By: Kimi Kantak, Govind Ramnath Kare College of Law

Edited by: Aashima Kakkar, Associate Editor, Law Insider & Pracheta Sharma.

Published On: December 09, 2021 at 12:50 IST