August 19, 2022

The State of Madras vs Srimathi Champakam- An Analysis

The case has its importance because supreme court struck down the rule of communal reservation in the case.

The case had arisen when two petitions were filed in the High Court of Madras against the Maintainability of Communal order of government of madras on the matter of reservation for the admission in engineering college.

Fact

Medical College

The State of Madras had the power to maintain four Medical Colleges and only 330 seats were available for students in those four Colleges.

Out of these 330 seats,

  • 17 seats were reserved for students coming from outside the State and
  • 12 seats were reserved for discretionary allotment by the State and
  • the balance of the seats available were apportioned between four distinct groups of districts in the State.

Engineering College

Likewise, the State of Madras had the authority to maintain four Engineering Colleges and the total number of seats available for students in those Colleges were only 395.

Out of these,

  • 21 seats were reserved for students coming from outside the State,
  • 12 seats are reserved for discretionary allotment by the State and
  • the balance of the seats available were apportioned between the same four distinct groups of districts.

The process to filling up the seats

For many years before the commencement of the Constitution, the seats in both the Medical Colleges and the Engineering Colleges so apportioned between the four distinct groups of districts used to be filled up according to certain proportions set forth in what used to be called the Communal G. O.

Thus, for every 14 seats to be filled by the selection committee, candidates used to be selected strictly on the following basis: —

  • Non-Brahmin (Hindus) … 6
  • Backward Hindus … 2
  • Brahmins … 2
  • Harijans … 2
  • Anglo-Indians and Indian Christians …. 1
  • Muslims … 1

Subject to the aforesaid regional, selection from among the applicants from a particular community from one of the groups of districts used to be made on certain principles based on academic qualifications and marks obtained by the candidates.

The proportion fixed in the old Communal G.O. has been adhered to even after the commencement of the Constitution on January 26, 1950.

The case of Two Petitioners

Two petitions were filed under Art. 226 before High Court against the maintainability of the order. One petitioner was Medical student and other one was the student of engineering.

Medical Student case- Champakam

On June 7, 1950, Champakam Doratrajan made an application to The High Court Madras under article 226 of the Constitution for protection of her fundamental rights under article 15 (1) and article 29 (2) of the Constitution and prayed for the issue of a writ of mandamus or other suitable prerogative writ restraining the State of Madras and all officers from enforcing the Communal G.O. as that order infringe and involve the violation of her fundamental rights.

However, she did not apply for admission in the Medical College. She stated that on inquiry she came to know that she would not be admitted to the College as she belonged to the Brahmin community. The high court allowed the appeal but the state came before the supreme court against the decision of High Court.

Engineering Student Case- Srinivasan

Sri Srinivasan who had actually applied for admission into the Government Engineering College at Guindy, filed a petition praying the same.

In this case also, High court allowed the same and state challenged the decision before the court.

Thus, both petitions came before the court through appeal by State.

Article 15(1) and 29(2)

Article 15(1) says,

“(1) The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.’

Article 29 which occurs in Part III of the Constitution under the head “Cultural and Educational Rights” runs as follows:

“(2) No citizen shall be denied admission into any educational institution maintained by the State or receiving aid out of State funds on grounds only of religion, race, caste, language or any of them.”

Contention of the state

On article 29(2)

The learned Advocate-General appearing for the State contended that the provisions of this article have to be read along with other articles in the Constitution.

He urged that article 46 charges the State with promoting with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people, and, in particular, of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, and with protecting them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation. It is pointed out that although this article finds a place in Part IV of the Constitution which lays down certain directive principles of State policy and though the provisions con- tained in that Part are not enforceable by any Court, the principles therein laid down are nevertheless fundamental for the governance of the country and article 37 makes it obligatory on the part of the State to apply those principles in making laws.

The argument was that having regard to the provisions of article 46, the State is entitled to maintain the Communal G.O. fixing proportionate seats for different communities and if because of that Order.

Advocate-General of Madras even contended that the provisions of article 46 override the provisions of article 29 (2).

The court’s Holding

On Article 29(2)

The court stated that,

“The right to get admission into any educational institution of the kind mentioned in clause (2) is a right which an individual citizen has as a citizen and not as a member of any community or class of citizens. This right is not to be denied to the citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, language or any of them. If a citizen who seeks admission into any such educational institution has not the requisite academic qualifications and is denied admission on that ground, he certainly cannot be heard to complain of an infraction of his fundamental right under this article. But, on the other hand, if he has the academic qualifications but is refused admission only on grounds of religion, race, caste, language or any of them, then there is a clear breach of his fundamental right.

On overriding of Directive principles on Fundamental Rights

The court stated in the answer of advocate general’s contention-

“The directive principles of the State policy, which by article 37 are expressly made unenforceable by a Court, cannot override the provisions found in Part III which, notwithstanding other provisions, are expressly made enforceable by appropriate Writs, Orders or directions under article 32.

The chapter of Fundamental Rights is sacrosanct and not liable to be abridged by any Legislative or Executive Act or order, except to the extent provided in the appropriate article in Part III. The directive principles of State policy have to conform to and run as subsidiary to the Chapter of Fundamental Rights.

In our opinion, that is the correct way in which the provisions found in Parts III and IV have to be understood. However, so long as there is no infringement of any Fundamental. Right, to the extent conferred by the provisions in Part III, there can be no objection to the State acting in accordance with the directive principles set out in Part IV, but subject again to the Legislative and Executive powers and limitations conferred on the State under different provisions of the Constitution.”

On Article 15(1)

The court noticed that,

“Article 16 which guarantees the fundamental right of equality of opportunity in matters of public employment and provides that no citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, residence or any of them, be ineligible for, or discriminated against in respect of any employment or office under the State also includes a specific clause in the following terms: –

(4) Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making, any provision for the reservation of appointments of posts in favour of any backward class of citizens which, in the opinion of the State, is not adequately represented in the services under the State.”

If the arguments founded on article 46 were sound, then clause (4) of article 16 would have been wholly unnecessary and redundant.

On Admission on communal basis

The court said,

“It may well be that the intention of the Constitution was not to introduce at all communal considerations in matters of admission into any educational institution maintained by the State or receiving aid out of State funds.

The protection of backward classes of citizens may require appointment of members of backward classes in State services and the reason why power has been given to the State to provide for reservation of such appointments for backward classes may under those circumstances be understood.

That consideration, however, was not obviously considered necessary in the case of admission into an educational institution and that may well be the reason for the omission from article 29 of a clause similar to clause (4) of article 16.

Take the case of the petitioner Srinivasan. It is not disputed that he secured a much larger number of marks than the marks secured by many of the Non-Brahmin candidates and yet the Non-Brahmin candidates who secured less number of marks will be admitted into six out of every 14 seats but the petitioner Srinivasan will not be admitted into any of them. What is the reason for this denial of admission except that he is a Brahmin and not a Non-Brahmin?

He may have secured higher marks than the Anglo-Indian and Indian Chris- tians or Muslim candidates but, nevertheless, he cannot get any of the seats reserved for the last mentioned communities for no fault of his except that he is a Brahmin and not a member of the aforesaid communities. Such denial of admission cannot but be regarded as made on ground only of his caste.”

Final Decision

The court decided that,

  • The classification in the Communal G.O. proceeds on the basis of religion, race and caste and such classification made in the Communal G.O. is opposed to the Constitution and constitutes a clear violation of the fundamental rights guaranteed to the citizen under article 29(2).
  • Communal G.O. being inconsistent with the provisions of article 29 (2) in Part III of the Constitution is void under article 13.

Reference

The State of Madras vs Srimathi Champakam; 1951 AIR 226, 1951 SCR 525