Social reservation falls in distinct category than persons with disabilities: Kerala High Court upholds homogeneity of disability as a class

  • Gargi Chatterjee
  • 04:11 PM, 12 Jan 2022

Justice N. Nagresh of the Kerala High Court has ruled that persons with disability form a homogenous class by themselves which is not similar to Scheduled Castes/ Scheduled Tribes (SC/ST).

The Court was hearing a matter by NEET, 2021 candidates belonging to Scheduled Caste community who were entitled for reservation under SC/ST category.

As per the Prospectus and various Government Orders, 10% of the Government seats in Government Medical Colleges is reserved for SC/ST candidates. The candidates contended that this provision in the Prospectus is highly arbitrary, unreasonable and violative of the principle of equality enshrined in Article 14 of the Constitution.

Under Clause 4.1.5 Prospectus, 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.

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, the two classes entitled for reservation are discriminated among them and such adoption of criteria leads to marginal decrease in the available seats for the SC/ST candidates and therefore the petitioners seek to quash Clause 4.1.5. 

Per Contra, the State contended that persons with disabilities form a distinct and homogenous class and the quota reserving seats to persons having disabilities in the educational institutions are absolutely valid.

It was submitted that there arises no question of arbitrariness in not extending the principles of vertical reservation in the homogenous class of persons with disabilities like it is implemented in the case of other seats.

It was also said that the State has sufficient authority to decide how the principle of vertical reservation should be applied. Hence, the contention that the principle of communal reservation is not applied in the homogenous class of persons with disabilities will not hold good.

The Court, after hearing both parties found that the petition is devoid of merit and observed that 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.

Citing the Apex Court's decision in K. Duraisamy v. State of Tamil Nadu, Justice Nagaresh, it stated that the State can provide for separate and exclusive channels of entry or sources of admission, the validity whereof cannot be determined on constitutional principles applicable to communal reservations. 

The Court observed that the state can identify classes of persons who are having distinct characteristics or disadvantages and treat them separately under law. It stated that, "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."

The Court further pointed out that it is by virtue of the statute that 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," it said.

On Article 14, the Court observed that Article 14 postulates equal treatment for equally placed persons that is to say unequals can be treated unequally, implying that differential treatment is permissible when it comes to unequals.

"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. 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," the Court observed. 

Cause Title: Sumith V Kumar & Anr vs State Of Kerala