Court: Honourable Supreme Court
Bench: Sinha, Bhuvneshwar P.(Cj), Gajendragadkar P.B, Wanchoo K.N, Gupta, K.C. Das, Shah J.C.
Date of Judgement:28/09/1962
Petitioner: M.R. Balaji and Others
Respondent: State of Mysore
The case arose from an order passed by the State of Mysore regarding the reservation of seats in educational institutions. In an order passed by the Mysore state dated July 26, 1958, all the communities except those belonging to the Brahmin community were identified as educationally and socially backward classes, and 75% seats of the total number of seats in educational institutions were reserved for them. Similar such orders were also passed. These orders were challenged before the Court. Following this, the State of Mysore passed another order on July 31st, 1962 in which the backward classes were divided further into two categories- backward classes and more backward classes. It was also said in such an order that 68% of the seats were reserved in the engineering and medical colleges and other technical institutions for the educationally and socially backward classes and Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and the rest 32% for other students based on their merit. This order was challenged by 23 petitioners by a writ petition under Article 32. The petitioners contended that but for the reservations made by the impugned order, they would have been entitled to admission in the respective colleges for which they had applied. They stated that such a reservation made under the order had no reasonableness in it and the reservation of 68% was a clear violation of Article 15(4) of the constitution.
1. Whether the order issued was right as per the constitutional power conferred on the State by Article 15(4)?
2. Whether the state can create two categories as backward and more backward classes based on caste?
3. Whether the reservation of 68% of seats in educational institutions in accordance with provisions given under Article 15(4) of the constitution?
The Supreme Court ruled against the order for several reasons. Firstly, the reservation provided was based solely on caste, without considering other factors as according to Article 15 (4) of the 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.
Art. 15 (4) does not provide a classification between “backward” and “more backward” classes as done by the state order. Article 15 (4) of the 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