06/13/2024

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Dr. Gulshan Prakash vs. State of Haryana, 2009  

This article is written by Harshit Kumar. This article discusses in detail the judgement delivered in the case of Dr. Gulshan Prakash v. State of Haryana, 2009 (14) SCALE 290 in which the power of the State to make provision for the socially and educationally backward classes in postgraduate courses is discussed. This case analysis discusses the discretionary power of the State in making such provisions and also specifies the instances when the State can decide not to make any such provision. This article also discusses the purpose of the issuance of the writ of mandamus and certain conditions under which it cannot be issued. The article discusses the cases relied on by the Apex Court to arrive at its final decision. Lastly, this article discusses some critical points that the Court should have considered while coming to its final decision. 

This article has been published by Shashwat Kaushik.

Introduction 

Human development is a method of broadening the choice of every individual, and not just for any particular section of the community or for any particular individual. The process of development becomes unequal and unjust when a particular group is left out of the mainstream development process. In a democracy, it is very essential for the government to give great importance to upholding the rights of citizens and eradicating injustice. Achieving equality in status and opportunity along with social, economic and political justice is one of the goals set in the Preamble of the Constitution of India. The Constitution even provides directions for the State to implement various Directive Principles of State Policy to ensure socioeconomic equality among the citizens. The architect of the Constitution, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, in his speech in the Constituent Assembly, on the adoption day of the Constitution, highlighted the then-existing inequality on the social and economic plane, stating that there is a dire requirement to remove this inequality at the earliest, or else those who are facing these inequalities will destroy the political democracy, built laboriously by the Assembly. Hence, the introduction of the reservation system in independent India, through the Constitution.

The reservation of seats in the educational institution is one of those reservations given to the socially and educationally backward classes of citizens through the Constitution (1st Amendment) Act, 1951, by the introduction of Clause (4) of Article 15, as a result of the decision of the Honourable Supreme Court of India in the case of State of Madras vs. Champakam Dorairajan (1951). The Apex Court in this case struck down the Madras Government’s order of reserving the seats for various communities in the medical college. The Court found that this order was in violation of Article 15(1) which prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex and place of birth. Therefore, following the concerns raised because of the Supreme Court’s decision, the First Amendment Act brought clause (4) under Article 15, which gave power to the State Government to make special provisions for the upliftment of the Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes or the socially and educationally backward classes people in education sector.

The landmark case of Dr. Gulshan Prakash & Ors vs. State of Haryana & Ors (2009) revolves around the matter of reservation for the socially and educationally backward classes and SC/ST candidates under the post graduation (PG) degree of the medical colleges. The Court discussed the discretionary power provided to the State to make special provision to provide such reservation, and ruled that, if a State decides not to make any such special provision then that cannot be brought to the Apex Court as a matter of violation of the Fundamental Right, through a writ of mandamus. The reason behind this decision will be discussed in detail, further.     

Facts of Dr. Gulshan Prakash vs. State of Haryana, 2009 

The State of Haryana, vide a notice dated 12/11/2007, directed Maharshi Dayanand University (hereinafter referred to as “MDU”), Rohtak, to conduct an entrance test for admissions to PG/MD/MS diploma and MDS courses. This exam was conducted for the session of 2008-2009 in the government medical colleges and dental colleges in the State of Haryana. The State of Haryana also directed Pt. B.G. Sharma PGIMS, Rohtak to take on the counselling and complete the admission process under the said courses, under the same notification. There was a prospectus released by MDU, Rohtak for conducting the PG/MD/MS diploma and MDS courses entrance test in the government medical colleges and dental colleges, for the session 2008-2009, as directed by the notification released.

The appellants herein approached the Commissioner and Health Secretary, Ministry of Health and Education, Government of Haryana, Panchkula, to include the reservation for the SC/ST in the postgraduate courses (MS/MD/MDS/diploma) PGIMS as per the issued guidelines by the State Government on 19/03/1999, on 15/12/2007. However, they received no response, therefore, the appellants approached the High Court through a writ petition, praying for a quashing of the prospectus, but that was dismissed. Aggrieved by this decision, the petitioners took this matter under special leave petition before the Supreme Court and prayed for the issuance of a writ of mandamus along with other reliefs under  Article 32 of the Constitution.

Issues raised 

Listed below are the five major issues raised in this case:

  • Whether the power given to the State under Article 15(4) is a discretionary power or mandatory power?
  • Whether the Court can issue a writ of mandamus to the State directing it to make reservation provisions?
  • Where the State Government has given reservation in undergraduate courses under Article 15(4), is it bound to give such reservation in postgraduate courses also?
  • Where the Government of India has itself given the provision of reservation for SC/ST in all the medical postgraduate courses, under Article 15(4), does it automatically apply to the selections where the State Government has the regulating powers?
  • Who is eligible to exercise the power given by Article 15(4) to provide reservation or to make special provisions for the advancement of socially and educationally backward classes or SC/ST?

Arguments of the parties

Appellants 

The contention started with putting some of the facts forward by the appellants about the organisations providing reservations to the SC/ST. According to them, a prospectus was published by MDU for the MBBS/BHMS/BDS/BAMS entrance test, on 07/08/2000, for admissions to medical/ayurvedic/dental/homoeopathic colleges/universities in Haryana. As per the notification the prospectus provided seats in various categories among which 20% of the seats were reserved for the Scheduled Castes.

It was further presented that there was a reservation provided by all the institutions including the All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS) to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes on 17/09/2005, in the postgraduate courses. Further, in the session of 2007 reservation was provided to the SC/ST members in the postgraduate courses, by the Government Medical College, Patiala, Amritsar and Faridkot. Furthermore, the University of Delhi including some other States were also providing reservations to the SC/ST members in the postgraduate courses.

Putting these points forward the appellants wanted to contend that, where the reservation was provided by so many institutions for undergraduate and postgraduate courses, and where the State of Haryana had itself given the reservation for postgraduate courses in the session of 2007, then the same should be provided in the current session as well because as per Article 15(4), it is mandatory for the State to follow this provision and necessarily provide reservation to SC/ST and Other backward classes (OBC) for postgraduate courses as well.  

The appellant also contended that the Government of India already has provided reservation to the SC/ST candidates in all India entrance examinations for postgraduate courses, then the State of Haryana is under an obligation to do the same and issue an order or directives to to provide reservation to the SC/ST in the postgraduate courses. Further, the prospectus that was issued does not have any provision for reservation, it is improper and must be quashed.      

Respondents

The respondents were up with their contention that the State of Haryana already had provided reservation in MBBS/BHMS/BDS/BAMS which are under graduation courses, and since there is no reservation with respect to the post-graduation course, therefore, the issued prospectus for the post-graduation courses does not include any reservation clause.

It was further contended that Article 15(4) is only an enabling provision, therefore after taking proper notes of various aspects, the State of Haryana came to the decision that no reservation shall be provided to the Scheduled Cast, Scheduled Tribes and Other backward Classes in post graduation courses. Further, in pursuance to the relief clause pertaining to the issuance of a writ of mandamus, they pointed out that for any particular class of people, there cannot be a mandamus directing the State to provide reservations to them under the postgraduate courses.

Furthermore, the State (one of the respondents), contended that they have time and again discussed and expressed through various notifications about their decision not to provide reservations to SC/ST/backward classes for admissions in postgraduate courses. In the matter of reservation, the State has always taken the recommendations of the Medical Council of India into consideration and has decided that reservation in postgraduate courses is neither feasible nor needed, the reason being that there is already reservation on 50% of the seats for the courses of MD/MS/PG diploma and course of MDS in the institutes of State of Haryana through all India entrance examination, conducted by All India Institute of Medical Science, New Delhi, and the appellants have already been benefited by the reservation of the seats in their MBBS/BDS qualifying examination. 

The respondents also contended that only the State is an appropriate authority to decide on reservations in the State. The appellants before the Court are under the wrong impression that the State had already taken a decision to provide reservation to the SC/ST/backward classes in the postgraduate courses, however, the State has time and again made its decision very clear through different notifications, informing about no such reservations in the postgraduate courses. 

Judgement in Dr. Gulshan Prakash vs. State of Haryana, 2009

The Court dismissed the contentions of the appellants and also dismissed the prayer for a writ of mandamus. The Court gave the reasoning of this decision in detail by referring to various precedents.

Rationale behind the judgement

One of the major questions in this case was the nature and objective of Article 15(4). This Article reads as

“(4) Nothing in this Article or in clause (2) of Article 29 shall prevent the State from making any special provision for the advancement of any socially or educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes or for the Scheduled Tribes.”   

This Article enables the State to make special provisions for socially and educationally backward classes of citizens, specifically for the Scheduled Castes and for the Scheduled Tribes. These provisions will be for encouraging and increasing the participation of these backward classes of society in getting higher education.  

As per the Apex Court, as ruled in this case, this provision is an enabling provision and not a compulsory provision. This means that this provision does not put a mandatory obligation on the State but gives discretion to the State to make provisions for the socially and educationally backward classes and provide reservations in post-graduate courses. 

Another major issue was the issuance of the writ of mandamus. The appellant prayed to the court to issue a writ of mandamus directing the State Government to open the doors of reservation for the SC/ST and other backward classes for the postgraduate courses.

Mandamus is a type of writ or judicial remedy in which the government, court, corporation or other public organisation are directed by a higher authority to do something or refrain from doing something that they are required to do or not do by the law, or as the case may be. These actions could be a public duty or a statutory duty, in some cases. This cannot be issued to force an authority to do something which is against the law or which is prohibited by the law (Hope Textiles Ltd. vs. Union of India, 1995). A mandamus cannot be prayed by anyone whose legal right is not infringed. Whoever prays for a mandamus must have a legal grievance which is protected legally and also the Courts can enforce it. The infringement is said to occur when an authority denies a legal right to someone, where it is legally obliged to provide such right to the same person or party (Mani Subrat Jain vs. State of Haryana, 1977). 

A writ of mandamus cannot be issued to a State Legislature to prevent it from considering legislation or bill which is unconstitutional (Chotey Lal vs. State of Uttar Pradesh, 1951). A legislative body cannot be directed by a Court to pass specific legislation, nor can the Court direct any subordinate legislative authority to pass any legislation which it thinks is competent to enact (State of Jammu & Kashmir vs. AR Zakki, 1992). Furthermore, the Court cannot stop the government from enforcing any legal provision (Narinder Chand Hem Raj vs. Lt. Governor, Administrator, Union Territory, Himachal Pradesh, 1971). Mandamus is majorly issued to prevent an authority from carrying out any ultra vires act (State of Bihar vs. DN Ganguly, 1958) and similarly, to prevent the government from enacting any Act or legislation which is unconstitutional (YN Mahboob Sheriff & Sons vs. Mysore State Transport Authority, 1960).

In this case, the Apex Court observed that no writ of mandamus can be issued against the State to direct them to make any special provision to provide reservations to the SC/ST/SEBC candidates in postgraduate courses.   

Precedents referred

  • While discussing the very first issue that was raised in this case, the learned counsel for appellants, Dr. Krishnan Singh Chauhan, cited the decision made by the seven judges bench, in the case of State of Kerala vs. N.M. Thomas (1975). In this case, the constitutionality of Rule 13-AA of the Kerala State and the Subordinate Services Rules, 1958, which relates to giving exemption to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes members from some special and departmental test for the promotion purpose, for a determined timeline, was in question. 

The Court observed the decision made by the Apex Court then and found that the majority upheld the validity of Rule 13-AA of the Kerala State and the Subordinate Services Rules, 1958. However, in the overall decision, the Court did not consider the implications and effect of Article 15(4), particularly, whether it is just an enabling provision or if it makes it mandatory for the State to provide reservations in postgraduate courses.

  • The next case, to which the Court took reference was a judgement given by the nine judges bench in the case of Indra Sawhney vs. Union of India (1992), the bench, while considering Article(s) 16(4) and 16(1), 15(4), 14, 32 and 340, discussed the nature of Article 16(4). 

The major question before the Court was, whether Article 16(4) includes the entire idea of reservation or is it exhaustive of the concept of reservation. In other words, if the reservation can be provided under any other provision, like Article 16(1)? 

The Court observed that there are two different opinions on this issue; 

  • uncheckedFirstly, Article 16(4) is not exhaustive of the idea of reservation, it is rather exhaustive for reservation decisions made only for the underprivileged classes or backward classes. However, it does not mean that just because it states one form of classification as a specific clause, the very idea and power of classification implied under Article 16(1) exhaust thereby. But, at the same time, any special provision that is made under Article 16(4), should in accordance with Article 16(1), that too in extremely rare circumstances and not for any random reasons. In any such extreme situation, the Court has to make sure that the made provision is for the public interest and it is to address a particular situation. 
  • uncheckedSecondly, Article 16(4) ought to serve as a disincentive to further develop classes that have the right to preferential treatment. The reason is simple, it would not be appropriate to make reservation provisions under Article 16(4) and Article 16(1) because this will reduce the number of vacancies for both the reserved categories and free competition. 
  • The Court further referred to the case of K. Duraisamy vs. State of Tamil Nadu (2001), in which while discussing the reservation at the postgraduate level and super speciality level, the three judges bench observed that it is a well-written and well-settled notion that the State Government has the power and right to decide that through which source, the admissions to educational institutions, or to certain courses or disciplines have to be made, and up to what proportion. The Court has consistently upheld and maintained the notion that the reservation as known as “protective discrimination” should be avoided for those who are deemed to be backward class, as not permissible, on the postgraduate level or superspeciality level. Even if the reservation is claimed in this case, for and in favour of the in-service candidates, it cannot be equated or compared to the collaborative reservations envisaged under Article 15(4) and Article 16(4). These reservations require a special procedure of implementation to ensure that they are kept to a minimum by excluding the candidates who are selected by open competition on the basis of their merit as against the reserved quota for collective consideration.    

Considering the same issue in the case of All India Institute of Medical Science Student Union vs. All India Institute of Medical Science (2001) (hereinafter referred to as “AIIMS case”), the Court observed that, when for the promotion of equalisation the protective discrimination is pleaded then the onus lies on the party that is attempting to justify the ex facie deviation from equality. The Constitution guarantees equal opportunity to every person as a Fundamental Right. Any candidate who has achieved higher marks is eligible for admission preference. As per the idea of equal opportunity to equal marks, merit should be a criterion for choosing the top candidates. The significance of this idea increases as the level goes up, like post-graduation courses. As an exception, the reservation can be justified to remove the burden of those who are educationally handicapped and that reservation is to overcome that situation. The justification for reservation for medical students must be the eradication of any similar or different geographical disadvantages or class inadequacy. At the same time, the reservation shouldn’t be in excess of the requirement and harmful to society. Reservation has a lesser role to play the higher the level of speciality goes. 

It was further observed in the same case that, permissible reservation is a step, at the lowest or primary level, to bring those underprivileged candidates to society at a level equal to the privileged one, which they cannot achieve until and unless they are pushed protectively. Once that level is achieved that protection is needed to be removed in favour of those underprivileged candidates so that they can gather strength and confidence to go beyond this on the basis of their own merit. If the protection continues at the higher level as well, then it will make the underprivileged candidates more vulnerable and then they will require this support at every step and every level. Therefore, apart from being feasible from a constitutional standpoint, in order to be accepted, any reservation should be reasonable. Hence, whenever any reservation is implemented then it is crucial to check whether the quantum and character of it will be able to achieve the objective for which it is implemented.  

Thus, this contention of appellants was dismissed and the Court was consistent in its view that Article 15(4) is an enabling provision and it is the discretion of the State Government whether to provide such reservation by passing legislation or by issuing an executive instruction.

  • Discussing the next issue of mandamus, the Court referred to the case of Union of India vs. R. Rajeswaran & Another (2001), in which it was prayed to give directions for the inclusion of reservation for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes to the seats which were set apart for the All-India pool of MBBS/BDS list. The Court here observed that, as discussed by the Court in the case of Ajit Singh (II) vs. State of Punjab (1999), Article 16(4) does not create any constitutional duty or obligation on the State, rather it is discretionary. The language of Article 15(4) is the same, so the idea that a mandamus can be issued to either provide reservation or provide relaxation is not acceptable. Hence, the appeal claiming for the reservation was dismissed. 
  • Coming to the third issue, where the State Government has given reservation in undergraduate courses under Article 15(4), is it bound to give such reservation in postgraduate courses also?, there was a case that the learned counsel for appellants referred to is the decision made by the Constitutional bench in the case of Dr. Preeti Srivastava & Anr vs. State of Madhya Pradesh & Ors (1999), submitting that, where it is permitted to set a lower minimum percentage of qualifying marks for the candidates of reserved category than the candidates of general category, there the State must set that lower minimum qualification percentage for the SC/ST candidates at postgraduate level also.   

However, when the Court looked into the details of the case, it found that,

  1. The issue of reservation of the SC/ST at the postgraduate level of medical education was not discussed, because this issue was not debatable before them and they gave no opinion on it.
  2. The minimum qualification percentage must be set as per the standards outlined by the Medical Council of India, for postgraduate medical studies because the medical entrance examination is not merely a screening test and more than that.
  3. When it comes to the issue of deciding whether any lower minimum marks for the postgraduate medical studies for SC/ST candidates must be set, then this question should be addressed by the Medical Council of India because it directly impacts the quality of the post-graduation level of medical studies. Even if any lower minimum marks is set for the candidates of the reserved category then there should not be a big difference between the qualifying marks for the reserved category candidate and the qualifying marks of the general category candidates, at this higher level of studies. So the difference of 20% of qualifying marks for the SC/ST category candidates and 45% of qualifying marks for the general category candidates is not permitted under Article 15(4) and such difference will be absurd for the level of post-graduation, and this will be against the public interest.
  4. Admissions into any super speciality courses can be on a merit basis, solely. Any special provision for it isn’t permissible and that will also be against the public interest.

It was clear from the decision that the Court in the above case did not examine the permissibility of reservation in postgraduate medical courses. It, however, did express that setting of lower minimum qualification marks for the candidates of reserved category for the postgraduate medical education is permissible, and that should be done by the Medical Council of India. The Court focused on the minimum qualification percentage set by the Council, which was 40% for the reserved category candidates and 50% for the general category candidates. In the light of this decision, the contention made by the counsel of the appellant that if the State has provided reservation at the undergraduate level it should provide reservation at the postgraduate level was dismissed.    

  • Finally, the last case that the appellant referred to was Abhay Nath & Otr vs. University of Delhi & Otr (2006), where the reservation quota was pointed out by the Additional Solicitor General. It was seen that of the 50% seats of all India quota, 22.5% were reserved for SC/ST students. It would be challenging for the State to provide the whole percentage of reservations out of the 50% of the seats remaining for them to be filled up. It will be equally challenging for the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) to have complete 22.5% reservation out of the 50% seats reserved for the all-India entrance examination. It was, therefore, suggested that the Union of India had agreed to reserve 22.5% of seats for the SC/ST candidates from the academic year 2007-2008 onwards. Hence, the 50% seat of all India quota included the 22.5% seats reserved for the SC/ST candidates. 

The Court observed that the directions given by the Court in the above case referred to the all India quota, but that does not have any effect on the admissions meant for State quota.

Ratio of the judgement

The Court came to the following conclusions in pursuance of the underlying issues in the case: 

  • The power given to the State Government by Article 15(4) is a discretionary power. Article 15(4) is an enabling provision, which means it provides power to the State Government to make any provision for the upliftment of the SC/ST/backward classes of the society wherever it thinks is required. However, this provision does not put a mandatory obligation on the State to make any provision that it doesn’t think is fit for the society of that region, nor can the Court or any higher authority force it or pressurise it to make any such provision. 
  • In this case, the Court observed that the Government of Haryana, on 05/11/1988, considered and decided not to provide any reservation in PG/diploma courses admissions, for the very first time. Later, a letter was released on 01/01/1991, in which it was mentioned that the Government of Haryana was not in favour and would not provide any reservation for SC/ST in PG/degree/diploma courses  Later again, through a letter dated 26/04/2002, the State Government announced that there will be no reservation for SC/ST candidates for admissions in post graduation courses in PGIM, Rohtak. From this, it is clear that the State does not intend to provide any reservation to SC/St at PG level and this decision suffers from no infirmity. Moreover, the State also said that this decision was taken after careful consideration of the recommendations given by the Medical Council of India, and also considered the other precedents/decisions made by other States, and concluded that reservation is not feasible in the State of Haryana. 

The Court finally observed that the State Government has conveyed its decision to not provide reservations to SC/ST/backward classes people on the postgraduate level, more than once. Therefore, the Court cannot issue a mandamus against the decision of the State and also the prospectus cannot be faulted for not including any reservation clause.

The Apex Court further observed that the socially and educationally backward class will be given any privileged treatment only when it is required, and this is the very principle behind Article 15(4). Article 15(4) enables the State to create policies for the betterment of SC/ST, providing them reservations for admissions to educational institutions. Furthermore, this Article merely implements the principle of reasonable classification and is not an exception. There is no mandatory obligation on the state to make any reservation provision if there is no requirement as such, under Article 15(4), and the power to make such provision is purely discretionary, therefore, no writ can be issued to direct the State Government to make any reservation policy. Moreover, even though the reservation is permissible to be provided to the SC/ST at the postgraduate level, the State of Haryana has made a decision to not provide any such reservation and can also not make a situation of issuing a writ of mandamus. The reason being that, medical education is a significant matter which should not be subject to any mandatory conditions of this kind which can lead to a situation which is against the public interest, and as mandated by the Constitution, the State Government is the best authority to check and decide what is required and beneficial for the State.  

  • Where the State Government has provided reservations to SC/ST candidates in undergraduate courses, that does not make it mandatory for the State Government to provide such reservations to SC/ST in postgraduate courses as well. Even though the reservation on postgraduate courses is permissible, the State Government being the appropriate authority to decide the requirement of the State can decide not to provide any such reservation. The discretion lies in the hands of the State Government to decide whether the SC/ST candidates should be given any reservation at levels like post-graduation courses or super speciality courses or not, or the selection should be on a merit basis.
  • It is true that the Government of India itself has made a reservation provision for SC/ST candidates. This provision is applicable in respect of all India medical entrance examinations for MD/MS/PG Diploma and MDS courses, and SC/ST reservation in all India quota for PG seats. However, the same provision will not be applicable in the selections where the State has the regulation power. 
  • Article 15(4) is not an exception clause but a provision that allows special application of power to enact any other special provision providing reservation to the underprivileged classes of the society. This power is discretionary and it depends on the State whether to bring provision by passing legislation or by issuing an executive notice, which means it is either the Legislature or the Executive body that can bring such special provision.

Critical analysis of Dr. Gulshan Prakash vs. State of Haryana, 2009

The decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Dr. Gulshan Prakash vs. State of Haryana (2009) has played a significant role in deciding and showcasing the parameters of Article 15(4) of the Constitution. Clause 4 of Article 15, which was brought by the First Constitutional Amendment, 1951, gave power to the State Government to make any provision to provide reservation to the socially and educationally backward classes (SEBCs), Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST), for uplifting their participation and their advancement in education. This case highlighted the discretionary power of the State to make such provisions and brought up some critical points for further analysis.

Key points

  1. Prioritising merit over equality: The Court’s observation in the case focusing on the merit of the candidates for the selection at the post-graduation level is much appreciated, however, this runs counter to the objectives of affirmative action. Where the reservation policies are made with an aim to prevent the past injustice faced by the SC/ST/SEBC people, relying solely on merit would unintentionally reinforce those disparities again. 
  2. The discretion given to the State Government and the lack of accountability: Article 15(4) gives the State Government complete discretion to make provisions as per requirement, which means the State Government has complete discretion to make the provision for the institutes regulated by the State Government. At the same time, there is no such mechanism introduced which will keep a check on the extent of the use of this discretion. It lacks the framework to ensure this discretionary power is not misused by the State at any point of time. The State may take some decision of not providing reservations to the SC/ST/SEBC candidates for some reasons unrelated to the sincere requirements assessments.
  3. Lack of data-driven policy making:  While discussing the case the Court missed emphasising on the significance of data in examining the reservation policies. The better way to understand if any policy or provision is working properly or not is by checking the data, it will help to understand which goal has already been achieved from the existing policy and which area needs reservation. For instance, in the given case the Court could have looked into the data showing the representation of the SC/ST/SEBC in the postgraduate courses in comparison to the amount of the existing population. This would have helped the Court to understand if reservation was needed or not, which was overlooked.  

Overall, the decision in this case is a complex picture of balancing merit and social justice in the setting of affirmative action. The Court’s focus on the merit of the candidate is commendable but at the same time, the Court has overlooked some aspects which may trigger the traces of historical injustice that the SC/ST/SEBC candidates have faced specifically when it comes to freedom of education.    

Judicial precedents shaping the case of Dr. Gulshan Prakash vs. the State of Haryana

The Court has relied on multiple cases to come to the conclusion of various issues of this case. The Court relied on Indra Sawhney vs. Union of India (1992), K. Duraisamy vs. State of Tamil Nadu (2001) and All India Institute of Medical Science Student Union vs. All India Institute of Medical Science (2001) to decide the enabling nature of Article 15(4). The Court further relied on Union of India vs. R. Rajeswaran & Another (2001) to conclude about the non-issuance of the writ of mandamus to direct the State Government to make any special provisions for SC/ST/SEBC candidates. These two were the main issues of the case that were decided by the Court with the help of the precedents. 

Conclusion 

The case of Dr. Gulshan Prakash vs. the State of Haryana (2009) is an important case for understanding how Article 15(4) works. This Clause lies under the domain of Fundamental Rights but does not provide any Fundamental Rights directly to the candidate of SC/ST/SEBC, instead gives power to the State to make some special provisions to provide reservations to the SC/ST/SEBC candidates that will maintain the right to equality in terms of education. 

The decision of the Court emphasised the balance that is present between affirmative action and meritocracy, explaining that there should not be any structural and historical injustice faced by the SC/ST/SEBC candidates reinforced even though the mode or selection is on a merit basis. The Court discussed the discretionary power of the State under Article 15(4) and ruled that the State is the proper authority to decide whether reservation is required in the region or not, considering the empirical evidence and social realities. 

However, there were some critical aspects observed in the given judgement related to the transparency and accountability of the State in decision-making. The Court even overlooked the need for a proper system which will keep a check on the misuse of the discretionary power provided to the State. Furthermore, the Court also failed to see the importance of data-driven policy-making mechanisms. 

The judgement of this case is a strong call for more debate and actions, concerning the connection between equity, social justice and meritocracy in education. It focuses on how crucial it is to maintain a balance between affirmative action and merit-based selections to ensure that every candidate irrespective of his/her social identity and socioeconomic background has access to quality education. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the difference between enabling provision and compulsory provision?

The difference between enabling provision and compulsory provision determines the extent of the power of the State and the autonomy of the private organisations. Where the compulsory provision puts mandatory obligation, the enabling provision provides limited power to the State to make provisions related to any requirement that is stipulated in the Constitution. Any legislation made through enabling provision is carefully analysed to make sure it is constitutional.  

What is data-driven policy making?

Data-driven policy making is a method of making policies considering the survey data, which are gathered through rigorous data analysis, data gathering and stakeholder participation, to make policies which are effective and focused. Evidence-based policy making enhances transparency and accountability in governance.

What discretionary power is given to the State under Article 15(4) of the Indian Constitution?

The discretionary power that the State holds under Article 15(4) is to make special provisions for the upliftment of socially and educationally backward classes as well as Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. This clause permits the State to make such provisions which can advance the progress of SC/ST/SEBC, however, it does not put any mandatory obligation on the State to do so. It does not create a Fundamental Right for any particular group but provides a special power to the State to enact some provisions to avoid injustice.  

What is the relation between Article 15(4) and Article 16(4) of the Indian Constitution?

Right to equality is a broad spectrum under which the two Articles lie, Article 15(4) and Article 16(4). Article 15(4) provides special power to the State to enact special provisions for the SC/ST and the socially and educationally backward classes, on the other hand, Article 16(4) guarantees equality in public employment, this provides power to the State to make provisions to provide reservation to SC/ST and other backward classes in public employment. The primary objectives of both the Articles are to provide a cure for the historical injustice and to promote equality in different components of the society.   

Where Article 29(2) of the Indian Constitution itself prohibits discrimination, how are affirmative actions in education made feasible by Article 15(4)?

Article 15(4) as an enabling provision takes precedence over the non-discriminatory clause of Article 29(2). Article 29(2) provides that no individual should be denied admission to any institution on the basis of his caste, race, religion, etc. On the other hand, the measure of affirmative action for the underprivileged classes or SC/ST/SEBC people is protected by Article 15(4), it allows the State to make special provisions for such underprivileged classes of people to uplift their participation and maintain equality. 

References

  • https://www.dehradunlawreview.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/3-RESERVATION-I-N-IN-HIGHER-EDUCATION.pdf 
  • https://www.researchgate.net/publication/352736903_RESERVATION_AND_HIGHER_EDUCATION_IN_INDIA_AN_OVERVIEW_VISHWA_BH_A_R_AT_I_RESEA_R_C_H_CE_NTRE 
  • https://nujslawreview.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/10-%E2%80%93-3-%E2%80%93-Mihika-Poddar-Bhavya-Nahar.pdf 
  • https://ebc-india.com/lawyer/articles/94v3a2.htm 

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