The case of ‘Deepak Sibbal v. Panjab University (1989)’ is an important case under Article 14 of Indian Constitution.
Facts of the Case
- The two appeals were preferred by Deepak Sibal and Miss Ritu Khanna, against the common judgment of the Punjab & Haryana High Court whereby the High Court dismissed the two writ petitions filed by the appellants and also some other writ petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the rule for admission in the evening classes of the Three-Years LL.B. Degree Course conducted by the Department of Laws of the Punjab University.
- The impugned rule was that,
“Admission to evening classes is open only to regular employees of Government/Semi-Government institutions/ affiliated colleges/Statutory Corporations and Government Companies. A candidate applying for admission to the evening classes should attach No Objection/Permission letter from his present employer with his application for admission.”
- The appellant, Deepak Sibal, was appointed to the post of Accountant in Agro Chem Punjab Ltd. with effect from June 2, 1988 on probation for a period of six months. Deepak Sibal, applied for admission in the evening classes of the Punjab University for the Three-Year LL.B. Degree Course with a ‘No Objection Certificate’ from his employer dated July 18, 1988.
He was granted an interview sometime in the first week of August, 1988, but he was not selected. On enquiry, he came to know that although his position was 29 in the merit list, he was declared ineligible because he was an employee of a Public Limited Company and did not fall within the exclusive categories, as mentioned in the impugned rule, to which admission in the evening classes was restricted.
- Ritu Khanna, was temporarily appointed to the post of Helper in the office of the Director, Water Resources, Punjab. She also applied for admission in the evening classes of the Three-Year LL.B. Degree Course of the University with all requisite certificates on July 18, 1988. She was granted an interview on July 30, 1988 and although her position in the merit list was 19, she was not selected for admission on the ground that she was only a temporary employee.
The Court’s Analysis
The Petitioners challaned the impugned rule on the basis of Article 14, that the rule violates their ‘Right to Equality’ given under Article 14 of the Constitution. After hearing the contentions of the parties, the Supreme Court analysed the case as follows-
- It is now well settled that Article 14 forbids class legislation, but does not forbid reasonable classification. Whether a classification is a permissible classification under Article 14 or not, two conditions must be satisfied, namely,
(1) that the classification must be rounded on an intelligible differentia which distinguishes persons or things that are grouped together from others left out of the group, and;
(2) that the differentia must have a rational nexus to the object sought to be achieved by the statute in question.
- By the impugned rule, a classification has been made for the purpose of admission to the evening classes. The question is whether the classification is a reasonable classification within the meaning of Article 14 of the Constitution. In order to consider the question as to the reasonableness of the classification, it is necessary to take into account the objective for such classification.
- The object, therefore, was to accommodate bona fide employees in the evening classes, as they were unable to attend the morning classes on account of their employment. Admission to evening classes is not open to the employees in general including private sector employees, but it is restricted to regular employees of Government/Semi-Government institutions etc., as mentioned in the impugned rule.
In other words, the employees of Government/Semi- Government institutions etc. have been grouped together as a class to the exclusion of employees of private establishments.
- Thus, the respondents have sought to justify the exclusion of private employees restricting admission to evening classes only to the Government/Semi-Government and similar other institutions principally on two grounds, namely,
(1) production of bogus certificates of employment from private employers, and
(2) imparting of legal education to the employees of the Government/Semi-Government and other institutions.
- Counsel appearing on behalf of the respondent, added two more grounds, namely,
(1) a candidate should have an assured tenure of employment likely to continue for three years, and
(2) as far as possible, there should be no possibility of wastage of a seat.
- It was submitted that employees of only Government/Semi-Government institutions etc. have an assured tenure of employment and if the admission in the evening classes is restricted to such employees, there would be no possibility of any wastage of a seat and the University will not have to engage itself in finding out whether or not a certificate produced by an employee of a private establishment is a bogus certificate and whether such employee has an assured tenure of employment likely to continue for three years.
- In upholding the validity of the impugned rule, it had been observed by the High Court that the Government employees have protection of Article 311 of the Constitution, which non-Government employees do not have and that employees of Semi Government institutions are also on the same footing.
- It is apparent that in framing the impugned rule, the respondents have deviated from its objective for the starting of evening classes. The objective was to accommodate in the evening classes employees in general including private employees who were unable to attend morning classes because of their employment. In this backdrop of facts, we are to consider the reasonableness of the classification as contemplated by the provision of Article 14 of the Constitution.
- It is difficult to accept the contention that the Government employees or the employees of Semi-Government and other institutions, as mentioned in the impugned rule, stand on a different footing from the employees of private concerns, in so far as the question of admission to evening classes is concerned. It is true that the service conditions of employees of Government/Semi-Government institutions etc, are different, and they may have greater security of service, but that hardly matters for the purpose of admission in the evening classes.
- The test is whether the employees of private establishments are equally in a disadvantageous position like the employees of Government/Semi- Government institutions etc. in attending morning classes. There can be no doubt and it is not disputed that both of them stand on an equal footing and there is no difference between these two classes of employees in that regard.
- To exclude the employees of private establishments will not, therefore, satisfy the test of intelligible differentia that distinguishes the employees of Government/Semi-Government institutions etc. grouped together from the employees of private establishments. It is true that a classification need not be made with mathematical precision but, if there be little or no difference between the persons or things which have been grouped together and those left out of the group, in that case, the classification cannot be said to be a reasonable one.
- The respondents have not placed any material before the High Court or in this Court as to in how many cases they had come across such bogus certificates produced by private employees during the time the admission to evening classes was open also to private employees. It may be that there were one or two cases of production of bogus certificates, but that cannot be a ground for the exclusion of all private employees from the benefit of getting legal education in the evening classes.
- There is no material to indicate that by the expression “regular employees” it is intended to include only those employees who will have an assured tenure of service for three years, that is to say, co-extensive with the period of the Three-Year LL.B. Degree Course. The expression “regular employees”, in our opinion, normally means bona fide employees. Such bona fide employees may be permanent or temporary.
- The reason for exclusion of private employees on the ground that there may not be an assured tenure of employment likely to continue for three years, not only does not stand scrutiny but also is unfair and unjust and cannot form the basis of such an exclusion.
- According to the respondents, imparting of legal education to the employees of Government/Semi-Government and other institutions, as mentioned in the impugned rule, would be in public interest.
It is not understandable why Government/Semi Government employees in general should be imparted legal education and what sort of public interest would be served by such legal education. It may be that certain sections of Government employees require legal education but, surely, Government employees in general do not require legal education.
- In considering the reasonableness of classification from the point of view of Article 14 of the Constitution, the Court has also to consider the objective for such classification. If the objective be illogical, unfair and unjust, necessarily the classification will have to be held as unreasonable.
- The next contention of the respondents is that the University, being an educational institution, is entitled to identify the sources for admission to the evening classes and that has been done by the University by the impugned rule and that cannot be challenged as violative of Article 14 of the Constitution.
- It is true that an educational institution is entitled to identify sources from which admission will be made to such institution, but we do not find any difference between identification of a source and a classification. If any source is specified, such source must also satisfy the test of reason- able classification and also that it has a rational nexus to the object sought to be achieved.
- It is now well established that a classification by the identification of a source must not be arbitrary, but should be on a reasonable basis having a nexus with the object sought to be achieved by the rules for such admission. It follows from the above discussion that the impugned rule, with which we are concerned, having made a classification which cannot be justified on any reasonable basis, must be held to be discriminatory and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution.
Deepak Sibbal & othr. v. Panjab University & another. (1989)