State Of Madras v. Srimathi Champakam Dorairajan (1951 AIR 226)

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  1. Justice Sudhi Ranjan Das
  2. Justice Hiralal Kania
  3. Justice Saiyid Fazal Ali
  4. Justice M. Patanjali Sastri
  5. Justice Mehr Chand Mahajan
  6. Justice Vivian Bose
  7. Justice B.K. Mukherjea


Petitioner- The State of Madras

Respondent- Srimathi Champakam Dorairajan and C.R. Srinivasan


“Times have changed but the basic premise of the Constitution has not. It is still our blueprint for freedom.”

Ronald Reagan

This judgement revolving around Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy was a historic judgement and it led to the first amendment regarding reservation policy in India. This case has dealt with the enforceability of Directive Principles of State Policy and its overriding propensity over fundamental rights. This case has led to the addition of Article 15 (4) to Part III of the Constitution. 

In this case, the constitutionality of the Communal Government Order was in question. This order was operative even before the establishment of the constitution and it allowed the colleges that were maintained by the State to have reservation policy based on the caste system. 

This judgement by the Supreme Court helped to resolve the conflict between Part III and Part IV of the Constitution of India. Part III of the Constitution contains fundamental rights which are the basic human rights guaranteed to all the citizens and these rights are enforceable in the court of law, subject to reasonable restrictions. While, Part IV of the Constitution contains Directive Principles of State Policy are the guidelines for the State, though these are not binding in nature and are not enforceable in the courts for their violation.   

Facts of the Case

This[1] case revolves around the 1950s in Madras. The case consists of two separate appeals from the judgement of Madras High Court in the case of State of Madras v. Champakam Dorairajan and State of Madras v. C.R. Srinivasan.   

The State of Madras maintained four medical and four engineering colleges. The State has a system to reserve a proportion of seats for candidates from other states and allows discretionary allotment. There was another basis of admission, which was called a Communal Government Order. This order was issued by Madras Presidency in 1927, way before the commencement of the constitution. The Government Order No. 2208 of June 16, 1950, produced certain rules on the reservation of 14 seats with the following criteria:

  1. Non-Brahmins: 6 seats
  2. Backward Class: 2 seats
  3. Brahmins: 2 seats
  4. Harijans: 2 seats
  5. Anglo Indians and Indian Christians: 1 seat
  6. Muslim- 1 seat

These criteria of admission continued to be followed even after the commencement of the Constitution. 

On June 7, 1950, Champakam Dorairajan, a Brahmin by caste, filed a petition under Article 226 of the Constitution in the High Court of Madras, stating that her fundamental right to admission to medical college was being infringed. She alleged that even after scoring enough marks, she could not get admission in medical college because she belonged to the community of Brahmins and the allotted number of seats were already filled. She stated that her fundamental rights under Article 29 (2) and Article 15 (1) were infringed and requested to issue a writ of Mandamus against the State of Madras from enforcing the said Government Order. 

A similar application was filed by C.R. Srinivasan in the Madras High Court stated to issue a writ of mandamus as he was denied admission to an Engineering college. 

The High Court of Madras stated that Article 15 (1) of the Constitution was in violation of the fundamental rights of the students, however, Article 29 (1) was not violating any of the fundamental rights because the applicants were not registered in the college. Further, the Court added that the said Government Order was completely based on caste, religion, and race rather than income or marks and thus, was in violation of fundamental rights under Article 29 (2) of the Constitution. Thus, the Madras High Court struck down the impugned Government Order communal system as it was entirely based on caste reservation which was against the constitution. 

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Therefore, aggrieved by this decision of Madras High Court, the State of Madras filed an appeal in the Supreme Court of India.   

Issues of the Case

The case involved the following issues:

  • Whether the Government Communal Order in violation of fundamental rights under Article 29 (2) of the Constitution?
  • Whether Article 29 (2) under Part III and Article 46 under Part IV of the Constitution can be read together? If required, then which one will prevail? 

Arguments on behalf of the Petitioner

Aliadi Krishnaswami Aiyar appeared on behalf of the appellants and contended the following:

  1. According to the judiciary, the concept of reservation was totally based on caste, religion, and race, but as per Article 46 of the Constitution, it aims at providing education to the weaker sections and backward class of the society, including Scheduled caste and Scheduled tribes. 
  2. That this reservation was stated under Article 46 of the Constitution and is inclusive of certain provisions which are generally not enforced by the court. 
  3. That Article 46 ensures education to the weaker section and takes them towards social injustice and their exploitation in society. 
  4. That the said Government Order was passed by the State itself and the appellants are unable to get admission in the college is not an infringement of fundamental rights. 
  5. That they denied the explanation by the Advocate General. The Directive Principles of State Policy which were enforced by the court through Article 37 cannot overrule the fundamental rights in relation to the enforced writs. 
  6. That legislative or executive assembly cannot abridge the fundamental rights and other rights provided except the provisions in Part III of the Constitution. Thus, Article 46 overpowers the provision of Article 29 (2) of the Constitution. 

Arguments on behalf of the Respondent

Advocate General, V.K.T. Chari, along with R. Ganapathy Iyer argued the following points:

  1. That Article 16 aims at providing equality at all levels and does not discriminate based on caste, colour, religion, creed, sex, or race. 
  2. That the said Article 16 aims at providing equality for all the people in the education, employment, and other places so that no citizen in the country is left behind. 
  3. That the said Communal Government Order was for upholding the backward class citizens, which is the goal of any State. 
  4. That the emphasis on Article 46 cannot overrule the provision of Article 16 (4) which aims at equality and if it does not override the clause, it would be non-existent and reluctant. 
  5. That the Constitution must not only aim at supporting the underprivileged through reservation or by raising state funds, but they should focus on securing and appointing them in all kinds of services, if the State really wants to protect their backward classes.
  6. That Article 29 does not override Article 16 (4) and thus, the reservation in educational institutions was really important. 
  7. That the respondents only aim at providing recognition to the classes who find it difficult to accommodate themselves at an equal stake in the educational system. 

Provisions and the Statutes Involved

  1. Article 13 of the Constitution of India, 1950
  2. Article 16 (4) of the Constitution of India, 1950
  3. Article 29 (2) of the Constitution of India, 1950
  4. Article 46 of the Constitution of India, 1950

Judgment of the Case

A seven-judge bench delivered the judgement on April 9, 1951. There was a combined decision for both the appeals that were filed in the High Court, that is, by Champakam Dorairajan and C.R. Srinivasan. The Court declared that there was a breach of fundamental right to get admission in an educational institution of Madras.

The Court further added that the total number of seats in medical colleges in Madras was 330, out of which 17 seats were reserved for the students from outside the state and another 12 seats were reserved for the candidates appointed at the discretion of the state. Similarly, in engineering colleges, out of a total of 394 seats, 21 seats were reserved for the students from outside the state, and 12 were reserved to be allotted on the discretionary power of the state. 

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The Apex Court held that division that was made by the Government communal order before the commencement of the Constitution was regional discrimination based on caste and religion.  

In respect of Champakam Dorairajan, the Court found that she had not actually applied to the Medical College. For this, she stated that when she realized that she could not get admission to the college because she was a Brahmin, she decided not to apply for it. However, while the case was with the High Court, the State had assured Champakam to reserve a seat for her, if she applied for the same. So, the court did not move forward with it. However, in the case of Srinivasan, who had scored 369 out of 450 marks, the Court found that he was denied admission on the basis of his caste, as his caste was allotted two seats out of the 14 reserved and those two were already occupied by more meritorious students. For this, the Court stated that this denial was more or less because of the caste. 

The Supreme Court clarified that the two appellants should be allowed to get admission in the Medical and Engineering College respectively and no college would deny taking them on the basis of merit, as decided by the colleges. 

On the issue of fundamental rights and the directive principles of state policy, the Court held that fundamental rights are a vital part of the constitution and they have a higher value than anything else placed in it. The essence of fundamental rights cannot be taken away, even by the legislative or any executive order. Moreover, the directive principles have to be applied such that they do not contradict fundamental rights. Thus, the directive principles are important but they cannot override the fundamental rights, which are of paramount importance. 

Therefore, the Apex Court concluded by stating that the classification made in the Communal Government Order is based on caste, religion, and race, thus, it is against the Constitution, inconsistent with Article 29 (2) of the Constitution of India, and is void under Article 13 of the Constitution. Finally, the Hon’ble Court dismissed the appeal of the appellants. 

Analysis of the Judgment

This was a landmark judgement that brought about the First Amendment on the reservation in India. This case has added another clause (4) to Article 15 of the Constitution. This was also the first case that arose a conflict between fundamental rights and directive principles. The Court declared this judgement with utmost equality and without making any discrimination among the citizens of the country. The court also stated that it was not the task of the State to decide the percentage of reservation for the Scheduled castes or Scheduled tribes or any other backward classes, it was the duty of the law to decide upon such issues. This was later upheld in the case of P.A. Inamdar v. State of Maharashtra[2]. Apart from the facts of the case, the Court also highlighted and directed certain guidelines for admission in colleges. The Court mentioned that the seats should not be filled by any candidate scoring less marks than others scoring more in comparison. 

Thus, the judgement, in this case, is of great significance and is a precedent to many other similar cases and this acts as a bridge when a conflict arises between fundamental rights and directive principles. The Court also struck down the impugned order which followed old norms and regulations even after the Constitution was in force and thus, by doing this the Court has proved that the Constitution is supreme. 


“No man is above the law, and no man is below it.”

Theodore Roosevelt

This case is an example that the rules and regulations have to be changed with time. Also, there is a vast difference between the pre and post-constitutional era and the laws. The case has also marked the scope of enforceability of directive principles, which are known to be not enforceable by law. Thus, the constitution is the supreme governing power of the country and nothing can overpower it.

[1] 1951 AIR 226.

[2] (2005) 6 SCC 537.