M.R. Balaji v. the State of Mysore: Case Analysis

M. R. Balaji and Others

v.

State of Mysore

  CitationAIR 1963 SC 649
CourtSupreme Court of India    
Case NumberWrit petition Nos.  90 to 112 of 1962
 Bench B.P. Sinha, C.J., J.C. Shah, K.C. Das Gupta, K.N. Wanchoo  and P.B. Gajendragadkar, JJ.
Relevant Section Article 15(4) of the Indian Constitution
Date of Judgement28th of September, 1962

Introduction

After the primary Constitutional Amendment was enacted in 1951, the case of M.R. Balaji was one of the main cases brought before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India.

A government order from Mysore pursuant to Art. 15 (4) reserved seat for admission in state medical and technical universities for overdue courses. This increased the seat reservation for planned boxes to 15% and for planned logs to 3% Backward and further backward classes were determined based on castes and communities in which backward classes were 28% Further backward overall classes were 20% and the group of earning were 32%. This was questioned by candidates who had more qualifications than those permitted in the order. The reason for the Government’s order was that they had qualified on merit, but had not received the approval.

The Petitioner then filed a complaint in the Hon’ble  Supreme Court, but the Court sustained the Judgment of a  previous Petitioner who had imposed on the Idea Commission to determine the backward class which is why the Petitioner was not satisfied with the judgment and approached the Hon’ble Supreme Court. The Court ruled that the sub-classification based on the arrangement between “backward classes” and “backward classes” was not justified under Article 15 (4). Although caste could also be a relevant factor, it may not be the only test to determine whether a particular class can be backward or not. Poverty, job, place of residence can be all relevant factors that have to be taken into account.

Facts of the Case

An order issued by the Mysore Government pursuant to Article 15 (4) reserved seats for admission in state medical and technical universities. On July 26, 1958, the state issued an order for all communities except the Brahman community to fall into pedagogical and socially backward classes and planned castes and tribes, 75% of which were reserved for them. Similar orders were issued on May 14, 1959, June 9, 1960, and July 10, 1961, but they all were all quashed when challenged. On July 31, 1962, the state of Mysore issued another order, which replaced all previous orders and left only 32% of seats for the profit set. This order was challenged by 23 Petitioners through a written request pursuant to Article 32. The Petitioners asserted that the state classification was irrational and that 68% reservation was in violation of Article 15 (4) of the Constitution. The Petitioners thus approached a superior court.

Issues

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

Decision

The Court ruled against the order for several reasons. Firstly, it was based solely on caste, without taking other relevant factors into account as according to Art. 15 (4). Although caste can be a relevant factor in determining the social backwardness of a class of citizens in relation to Hindus, the only dominant test should not be done on their behalf. Christians, Jains and Muslims do not believe in the caste system and therefore the caste test cannot be applied to them. 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 was the basis for the average student population in the last three high school classes of all high schools in the state in relation to one thousand citizens of that community. The national average was 6.9 per mile. The Court found that assuming that the test used was rational and permissible to assess educational backwardness, the validity was not applicable. Only a municipality that is far below the national average can be considered backward, but not a municipality that comes close to average. What was wrong about the order passed by Mysore 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 per cent were included in the list of backward communities.

Art. 15 (4) does not provide a classification between “backward” and “more backward” classes as done by the Mysore order. Art. 15 (4) approves special provisions for genuinely backward classes and not for classes that are comparatively 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.

The order  tried to divide the state’s population into the most advanced and the rest into two categories, backward and rearward. It did not provide for classification of the two categories. The interests of the weaker areas of the society, which are a major burden for the State and the Center must be adapted to the interests of the entire community. Adapting these competing claims is undoubtedly a difficult matter, but if a State reserves practically all the available places in universities in the form of a special provision, this would clearly undermine the subject of Article 4. (4) The state “has to try its tasks objectively and rationally.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court could feel the danger of treating the caste as the only criterion for determining educational and social backwardness. The essence of the judgment lies in the realistic assessment of the situations by which the Court stated that economic backwardness would be a much more reliable criterion for determining social backwardness since the former is more often a result of the latter. The Court distinguished between caste and class. It stressed on the attempt to find a new basis for determining social and educational backwardness instead of the caste.

The court also ruled that reservation under Art. 15 (4) must be reasonable. It should not be the main rule of equality which leads to equality anchored in the Article 15 (1) to be defeated or abolished. Although it would not be possible to predict the exact percentage of reservations that can be permitted, it can generally be stated that it should be less than 50% and would depend on the relevant circumstances. Also, a provision arising out of Art.15 (4) does not have to be in the form of a law, but could also be ordered by the Executive.

In this case, SC noted the following:

  1. The reserve may not exceed 50 per cent.
  2. The backward and backward classification is invalid.
  3. Caste cannot be the only criterion as Article 15(4) speaks of class and class is not synonymous with caste. Therefore, other factors such as poverty must be taken into account.

Reasoning

The Court of Appeal placed great emphasis on the division of backward classes, which is not justified under Art. 15 (4) 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) 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 Art. 15 (4)

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 v. The state of Mysore[1],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 v. State of Mysore.[2] 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 Art. 15 (4) 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 v. State of Madras[3], 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 Art. 16 (2) of the Indian Constitution.

Comments

I think, caste plays a role in people’s social superiority and inferiority, but castes may not be completely irrelevant to determine whether a group of citizens is a backward class. To use caste as a sole or even superordinate provision in the determination is inadmissible.

References

Books

  • DURGA DAS BASU, SHORTER CONSTITUTION OF INDIA, Volume-1 (14th ed., 2010).
  • M P JAIN, INDIAN CONSTITUTIONAL LAW, VOLUME-1, (7 ed., 2018).
  • Dr. J.N. PANDEY, CONSTITUTION LAW OF INDIA, (44th ed., 2007)

Lexicon

BLACK LAW DICTIONARY

Cases Referred

  • Ramakrishna Singh v. The state of Mysore, AIR 1960 Mysore 338.
  • S.A. Partha v. State of Mysore, AIR 1961 Mysore 220.
  • Champakam Dorairajan v. State of Madras, AIR 1951 SC 226.

Databases Referred


[1] Ramakrishna Singh v. The state of Mysore, AIR 1960 Mysore 338.

[2]S.A. Partha v. State of Mysore, AIR 1961 Mysore 220.

[3]Champakam Doirairajan v. State of Madras, AIR 1951 SC 226.

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