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Persons With Disability Form A Homogenous Class By Themselves, Not Similar To SC/ST Community: Kerala High Court

Hannah M Varghese
12 Jan 2022 5:07 AM GMT
Persons With Disability Form A Homogenous Class By Themselves, Not Similar To SC/ST Community: Kerala High Court
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The Court reiterated that reservation is not a matter of right, but only an enabling Constitutional provision.

The Kerala High Court on Tuesday ruled that the State government was authorised to recognise classes of persons with distinct attributes and treat them differently under law while upholding that the different quantum of reservation for Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes (SC/ST) and persons with disability in the NEET-2021 do not violate their right to equality.While dismissing a petition,...

The Kerala High Court on Tuesday ruled that the State government was authorised to recognise classes of persons with distinct attributes and treat them differently under law while upholding that the different quantum of reservation for Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes (SC/ST) and persons with disability in the NEET-2021 do not violate their right to equality.

While dismissing a petition, Justice N. Nagaresh observed that persons with disabilities constituted a separate homogenous class by themselves and that their disability was physical rather than pertaining to social backwardness.

"The State can identify classes of persons who are having distinct characteristics or disadvantages and treat them separately under law. 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...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."

The Court added:

"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. Such two channels of entry or two sources of admission are valid provisions, when the classification is based on an intelligible differentia with a laudable object sought to be achieved." 

While reiterating the principle of reservation, the Judge observed:

"Reservation itself is not a matter of right. The Constitutional provision is only enabling in nature. Same principle will be applicable if the petitioners claim for social reservation in the persons with disabilities quota. Article 15(5) of the Constitution does not mandate but enables the State to provide for reservation to those who are socially backward."

The petitioners were NEET 2021 candidates belonging to the Scheduled Caste community. They were thereby entitled to reservation under SC/ST category.

They argued through Advocates K. Siju, S. Abhilash and Anjana Kannath that as per the Prospectus and various Government Orders, 10% of the seats in Government Medical Colleges was reserved for SC/ST candidates. 

However, in Clause 4.1.5 of the Prospectus, a condition was imposed by the Commissioner of Entrance Examinations that the SC/ST candidates shall be allotted seats after leaving the seats set apart for All India quota, Government of India Nominees, Special reservations, Persons with Disabilities, all types of supernumerary seats sanctioned and management quota. 

Further, Clause 4.1.3 provided that Persons with Disabilities shall be given 5% of the seats only after leaving the seats set apart under Clauses 4.1.1 and 4.1.2.

Therefore, according to the petitioners, the two classes entitled for reservation were discriminated and the adoption of this criteria led to the marginal decrease in the available seats for the SC/ST candidates. 

Accordingly, they sought to quash Clause 4.1.5 of the Prospectus claiming it to be highly arbitrary, unreasonable and violative of the principle of equality enshrined in Article 14 of the Constitution.

They added that the constitutional mandate under Article 46 available for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes were taken away by the introduction of Clause 4.1.3 since it granted reservation of 5% of seats to one class of people after leaving the seats set apart under Clauses 4.1.1 and 4.1.2 unlike in the case of SC/ST reservation. Therefore, it was argued that both Clauses 4.1.3 and 4.1.5 were liable to be declared as unconstitutional. 

Opposing the petition, the respondents represented by Government Pleader P.G. Pramod and Advocate Titus Mani argued that it was for the State to decide as to how the principle of reservation is to be applied. They added that the petitioners cannot maintain a prayer seeking a direction to adopt different criteria from that adopted by the State. 

More importantly, it was pointed out that the persons with disabilities form a distinct and homogenous class and that the quota reserving seats to persons having disabilities in the educational institutions are absolutely valid.

The Court agreed with this argument and remarked: 

"It is relevant to point out that the claim of the petitioners for reservation is traceable to Article 15 which is an enabling right, the claim of the PWD persons traces to a statute promulgated for the purpose of implementation of a Constitutional mandate. Therefore, it is by virtue of the statute, persons with disability are treated as a homogenous class irrespective of social classification. Such a valid classification cannot be sought to be impeached by way of linking it with Article 16 or Article 15 which does not apply." 

Finally, the Judge also noticed that the State can provide for a different channel in the matter of admission, after relying on the Supreme Court decision in K. Duraisamy v. State of Tamil Nadu [(2001) 2 SCC 538].

As such, finding the petition devoid of any merit, the Court dismissed the plea. 

Case Title: Sumith V. Kumar & Anr v. State of Kerala & Ors.

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Ker) 18

Click Here To Read/Download The Order

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