Citation of the case: 1951 AIR 226, 1951 SCR 525
This case leads to the foundation of the first amendment in the Indian Constitution in 1951, and hence it is a very significant landmark case. In this case, The Supreme Court of India sustained the judgment of Madras High court that turned down the Communal Government order of Madras in 1951. Communal Government order affirms caste-based reservations in government jobs and educational institutes like colleges. The Supreme Court was of the view that it is an infringement of Article 16(2) of the Indian Constitution because of Article 16 states about Equality of opportunity in matters of public employment. It means that the state cannot discriminate any citizen based on ”religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, residence or any of them and have to ensure equal opportunities” in matters of public employment.
- Article 16(2) reads as; ”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”.[i]
Therefore, it resulted in the first amendment of the constitution as well as in addition to clause(4) to article 15.
Parties of the case:
- Petitioner: The State Of Madras
- Respondent: Srimathi Champakam Dorairajan
The Madras province has issued an order known as Communal G.O. regarding admission of students in engineering and Medical Colleges of the state. The selection committee was strictly abode by this order to fill the seats on the following basis, i.e., out of every 14 seats, six were to be allotted to Non-Brahmin (Hindus), 2 to Backward Hindus, 2 to Brahmins, 2 to Harijans. 1 to Anglo-Indians and Indian Christians and 1 to Muslims.[ii]
As per the respondent, she applied for admission to the medical college and got rejected based on her caste (Brahmin Community). So, she approached the High Court of Madras under article 226 of the Indian Constitution in order to protect her fundamental rights enshrined in Article 15(1) and Article 29(2). On the contrary, the petitioner emphasized that this order was based on the grounds of Article 46 that is a part of the Directive Principle of State Policy under the Constitution. However, the court observed that from the affidavit she submitted to support her petition, it did not look like that she actually applied for admission in the college. Then, the High Court decided not to pursue this matter further and delivered its judgment on 27 July 1950 allowing this application and struck down the communal order of Madras.
The respondent first appealed in the High Court of Madras under article 226 of the constitution, and Later it was challenged in the Supreme Court of India by the petitioner.
- The Learned Advocate- General on behalf of petitioner highlighted that the Communal Government order was in conformity with article 46 of the Indian Constitution. And also assisted that It is the duty of the state to provide special care to the weaker section of the society and save them from social exploitation. Although article 46 of the Part IV Constitution falls under the Directive Principle of State Policy and is not enforceable by any court, Article 37 makes the state obligatory to apply these principles in making laws for the upliftment of the weaker section. Therefore, this order is valid and hence not violating any fundamental rights of the respondent.
- On the contrary, The respondent claimed that this order is violating her fundamental rights as enshrined under articles 15(1), Article 16(2) and Article 29(2). All these articles provide citizens the right to equality and equal opportunities in public employment, and the state cannot pass any law violating these rights. Therefore, this order is an infringement of fundamental rights and shall be declared void. [iii]
In short, the issue was whether Fundamental Rights are superior or Directive Principle of State Policy.
The Supreme Court of India observed that the classification of Communal Government Order was based on religion, race, and caste. The petitioner also applied that despite having higher marks than other students, she could not get admission because of the reservation to some special class, if it was not there, she might have been selected. So, the court was of the view that it was a violation of the fundamental right to admission and equal opportunity for education. Therefore, it is opposed to the constitution and is a violation of rights guaranteed to the citizen under Article 29(2). The court did not consider articles 14 and 15, in this case, to be necessary. So, the court held that the ”Communal G.O. being inconsistent with the provisions of Article 29 (2) in Part III of the Constitution is void under article 13”[iv]. Because of the above reasons.
For better understanding:
- Article 15(1) states– ”The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.”[v]
- Article 29(2) states– ”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.”[vi]
- Article 37 states– ”Application of the principles contained in this Part The provisions contained in this Part shall not be enforceable by any court, but the principles therein laid down are nevertheless fundamental in the governance of the country and it shall be the duty of the State to apply these principles in making laws.’‘[vii]
- Article 46 states– ”The State shall promote 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 shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.”[viii]
After the verdict of the Supreme Court, the first amendment was made in 1951 by the Parliament. It allowed the inclusion of reservations in educational institutions and jobs to ensure the development of the weaker section in society. The former Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru introduced the first amendment bill in Parliament in 1951. Constitution Act, 1951[ix] brought the following changes;
- It inserted articles 31A and 31B.
- It inserted the ninth schedule in the constitution
- It amended articles 15, 19, 85,87,174, 176, 341,342, 372 and 376 of Indian Constitution.
Most significantly, it added clause (4) to article 15, that reads as; ”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 and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes”[x]. It can be observed that it allows Protective Discrimination to ensure the upliftment of the weaker section of the society.
Significance of Right to equality and Protective discrimination:
Right to Equality is enshrined in the constitution as a fundamental right. It also plays a significant role in the holistic development of an individual. Right to Equality is defined under article 14-18 of the Indian Constitution. It provides Equality among all the people without any discrimination based on caste, creed, sex, colour, religion, or any ground. This right is an essential part of democracy. These articles ensure that all citizens shall be treated equally without any discrimination by the State, and Law will treat everyone equally.
Right to Equality is vital but it cannot shadow the significance of Protective Discrimination. It is based on the principle where the state can discriminate against people on a certain basis to uplift the weaker section equal to others. It is affirmative action. For instance, the Reservation was included based on this principle only. After Independence, it was essential to ensure that every citizen is getting Education without any hurdles. It is also the duty of the state.
It is well known that there can be no law that infringes on any fundamental rights of the citizens. The Supreme and High Courts are empowered to declare such laws void under their jurisdictions. At the same time, Parliament has the power to amend the constitution except for the basic features of the constitution.
A similar situation can be observed in the above case as well. On the one hand, that communal government order was violating certain provisions of Equality, on the other hand, it was in conformity with Directive Principles of State Policy that is not enforceable by any courts. The Parliament made the first amendment in order to enhance participation of the backward classes.
However, it can also be concluded that Protective Discrimination is also a significant part of democracy, and it is the duty of the state to provide fair chances to all citizens.
- INDIA CONST. art. 16, cl. 2
- INDIA CONST. art. 15, cl. 1
- INDIA CONST. art. 29, cl. 2
- INDIA CONST. art. 37
- INDIA CONST. art. 46
- V.Venkatesan, A response in an earlier era, The Hindu, (Sept.23, 2005), https://frontline.thehindu.com/the-nation/education/article30206392.ece
- INDIA CONST. art. 15, cl.4
Student, Jaipur National University
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