State Of Rajasthan v. Dr. Ashok Kumar Gupta (1898 AIR 177)  

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Bench

  1. Justice M.P. Thakkar
  2. Justice B.C. Ray

Parties

Petitioner- State of Rajasthan & Anr

Respondent- Dr Ashok Kumar Gupta & Ors

Introduction

“Equality before the law in a true democracy is a matter of right. It cannot be a matter of charity or favour or grace or discretion.”

Wiley Blount Rutledge

Is the right to equality all about keeping all the people at one level? Or does it aim at raising the level of another by certain advantages to keep them in pace with others? 

The Right to Equality under Article 14 to 18 of the constitution deals with repudiating unfairness on the grounds of religion, race, caste, or sex. The concept of ‘equality’ is not only provided in fundamental rights but an inclusive part of the Preamble also, which talks about ‘equality of status and opportunity”. 

The right to Equality in our constitution is divided into two parts ‘equality before law’ and ‘equal protection of laws’. The protection of laws under this Article includes certain rights for students who are in educational institutions, especially medical and engineering. Many classifications and criteria have been made for admission in colleges in India, but it is very important to remember that the Right to Equality embedded in our constitution permits only ‘reasonable classification’ upon intelligible differentia, especially for the disadvantaged groups that have been left out of the group. However, this Article forbids class legislation and approbates only reasonable classification. 

Now, let us go through the facts of the case[1] and see how Article 14 can be a useful weapon for many students.  

Facts of the Case

The respondents, including Dr Ashok Kumar Gupta, were admitted for a post-graduation course in a five-year medical college affiliated with the University of Rajasthan. In order to get admission, he had given a competition examination which was common for all the five colleges of Medical in Rajasthan. Three writ petitions were filed in the High Court of Rajasthan who sought to get admission in post-graduate courses among the five medical colleges in Jaipur, Bikaner, Udaipur, Jodhpur, and Ajmer. 

The respondents were unable to secure a position for themselves in any college even after securing more marks as compared to other students who had been awarded additional marks based on the Ordinance 278-E (d) (ii) of the Ordinance of the University of Rajasthan. According to this Ordinance, the successful candidates were entitled to a uniform addition of 5% marks in the secured percentage of aggregate marks if they passed out of M.B.B.S from the same institution where they were selected. The percentage increase shall be as follows:

  1. Increase by 5 if the applicant had passed the final M.B.B.S from the Rajasthan University
  2. Another increase by 5 to be granted if the applicant had passed the final M.B.B.S. from the same institution in which he has been selected.  

Aggrieved by these criteria, the respondents filed a writ petition under Article 226 of the Constitution challenging the provisions that were violative of the right to equality under Article 14 of the Constitution of India. Further, the students seeking admission stated that they want to take admission in the said college only because there were many seats available for post-graduation courses in that college and there are more specialties available here than in other colleges of Jaipur. Even after achieving aggregate marks of more than 1600, they were unable to secure admission to any college. 

The High Court of Rajasthan struck down the impugned provision that was violating the rights of the individuals and thus, declared 278-E (d) (ii) as void. 

Aggrieved by the decision of the Rajasthan High Court, the State of Rajasthan filed an appeal in the Apex Court.

Issues of the Case

The case involves the following issues:

  • Whether the provision 278-E (d) (ii) of the Ordinance violative of Article 14 of the Constitution? 
  • Whether the respondents are eligible for admission to one of the five colleges of Rajasthan as per the competitive examination? 
  • Whether the criteria of 5% increase in marks to the marks obtained in a competitive exam in case of students obtaining the degree of M.B.B.S. violative of the equality doctrine?

Arguments on behalf of the Petitioner

Senior Advocate Tapas Ray and S.K. Jain with him contended on behalf of the respondents and argued the following points:

  1. That the classification made in respect to the marks of the students was nothing but a reasonable classification to uplift the underprivileged.
  2. That the basis of 5 marks for one and another 5 for other categories was also justified under Article 14 of the constitution of India which talks about bringing people at one level and providing an intelligible differentia for the classification. 
  3. That the decision delivered by the High Court was irrational and did not have the authority to interfere in these matters of educational institutions and the State can make it better. 

Arguments on behalf of the Respondent

Advocate Badri Das Gupta appearing on behalf of the petitioners have argued the following points:

  1. That said provision is violative of Article 14 of the constitution.
  2. That one of the appellants has scored 1650 marks in the competitive exam that was held for the purpose of admissions was unable to secure admission in a postgraduate course, while another candidate who had scored 100 marks less than the appellant in the same examination had secured a seat in the examination. 
  3. That the appellants were unable to secure an admission anywhere though they had secured the required marks and were more meritorious than the other 22 candidates who had got admission. 
  4. That having 5% weightage on the ground of institutional preference on the criteria that the student had passed out from the same college in M.B.B.S. and a benefit of another 5% on the ground that he has passed M.B.B.S. final from the medical college in the postgraduate course is arbitrary and unreasonable and does symbolize equality under the ambit of Article 14 of the constitution. 
  5. That the admission in the postgraduate courses of Medical College in Rajasthan shall be based upon the judgement of the Rajasthan High Court on August 7, 1987, thus, the decision should be upheld. 
  6. That the filling up of the future vacancies in postgraduate courses in all the Rajasthan Medical Colleges based on the Ordinance 278-E (d) (ii) is not valid provided the admitted students were according to an interim order of the court and should not be disturbed and allowed to complete their courses. 

Provisions and Statutes Involved

  1. Article 14 of the Constitution of India, 1950- Right to Equality
  2. Ordinance of University of Rajasthan Ordinance No. 278-E (d) (ii)- Admission in postgraduate courses in five-year medical colleges in the state of Rajasthan. 

Judgment of the Case

The judgement, in this case, was delivered by a division bench on October 11, 1988. The Court provided that when the result will be declared for the said competitive exam, the student who has passed out from college will have an advantage of 137.5 marks and such criteria would be nothing but a mockery to the criteria of merit that should be the actual basis of admission in any educational qualification. 

The impugned rule of admission is undoubtedly a basis of oppressive and obnoxious inequality among the candidates as the 5% increase to the students, will bring about the disparity. Moreover, once the veil of equality is lifted from these examinations and admissions, there is an ugly insight that is offensive in reality.

Thus, the court held that the admission in the post-graduate course at SMS College in Jaipur is considered one of the most advantageous, and if a candidate gets admission in this college, no meritorious student would leave that seat merely because one has passed the M.B.B.S. examination in the city of Jaipur even after securing competitive marks in the required admission. Therefore, there is no need for further argument in this aspect that Article 14 of the Constitution has been shattered by these types of criteria and has misused the purpose of classification. 

Further, the court held that what appears to be equal treatment under the equality doctrine of Article 14 may be in reality a denial of equality and the institutions may be deliberately liable for defying this important doctrine of equality. 

Therefore, the position of the impugned rule stands to be constitutionally invalid and this cannot be sustained, rather it needs to be buried completely as if it is applied in the future there will be nothing less than a tsunami in the education section. Hence, the impugned rule is violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India. 

Cases Referred

  1. Nidamarti Mahesh Kumar v. State of Maharashtra & Ors[2]– In this case, the High Court has struck down the impugned provision in Ordinance 278-E on the ground that in assistance with institutional preference under the said clause 1, it would amount to a 100% reservation in accordance with the students of the University in a sense that there is no other student in the university who would have any reasonable chance of getting admission in these postgraduate courses. This was taken up from this case that was enunciated by the bench. This principle has been widely relied upon by various cases in similar matters. The Apex Court, thus, in this judgement relied upon this principle and held the criteria of 5% increase to be invalid on the ground that it does not fulfil the main purpose of Article 14 that is to provide an uplift to the underprivileged. 

Analysis of the Judgment

The judgement of this case is an accurate and rational one as the Court has widely looked upon various aspects followed in any educational institutions and the decision of burying the impugned rule was as efficient as any other judgement because if the Court would have declared one part to be unconstitutional, then the State would have used it in any other sense and misused it for providing inequality to the students. This judgment has been very crucial and has helped the respondents to gain admission in the college that they wanted to get admission in. Thus, the division bench, in this case, has uplifted the concept of protection of laws and has tried their best to bring all the students at one place, irrespective of any criteria, especially the one that was not at all based on intelligible differentia. 

Conclusion

“Right to equality provides no special privileges, no distinctions on grounds of religion, caste, creed, and sex, then how fair is our reservation system and how is it justified?”

Pushpendra Singh Sengar

In India, certain rights and duties are laid down by the government and the constitution. Among all the rights, the right to equality is vast and constitutes many other aspects. The two concepts involved in the right to equality, that is, equality before the law and equal protection of laws are an insight to this Article. The other important things in this include intelligible differentia, rational nexus, and reasonable classification. In our country, the judiciary has always upheld these rights and has given importance to these rights above anything else while pronouncing any judgement. The judiciary is the only key to bring about parity in society. 

When a person is denied his rights, then he is left with no other option to outlaw. Whenever any person’s fundamental rights are infringed, the law is the only cycle that can bring justice to them. These fundamental rights represent the basic values and help to develop society. The Constitution does not even allow the State to curtail an individual’s fundamental rights, nor can the judiciary do so. Thus, in our country, there is nothing more than the Constitution, not even the judiciary, nor the government, nor any other authority. Thus, the goal of any society should be to protect the law and try to achieve constitutionalism in an egalitarian society. 


[1] 1898 AIR 177.

[2] AIR 1980 SC 1362.

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