Pramati Educational & Cultural Trust & Ors. v. Union of India & Ors.

Read this judgement analysis to understand how the Supreme Court held that Article 15(5) was constitutionally valid with respect to admission in private unaided educational institutions.
CITATION(2014) 8 SCC 1
COURTSupreme Court of India
JUDGES/CORAMJustice R.M. Lodha, Justice A.K. Patnaik, Justice S.J. Mukhopadhyay, Justice DipakMisra and Justcie F.M. Kalifulla
DATE OF JUDGEMENT06.05.2014

Introduction

This case deals with the constitutional validity of clause (5) of Article 15. This case has to the best of the satisfaction of all the parties’ court has answered the contentions raised by the private parties, whether the implementation of reservation rules in private unaided institutions is how far correct.

Facts

The facts of the case are as follows: In this case the contentions were raised on the validity of Clause (5) of Article 15 of the Constitution inserted by the Constitution (Ninety-third Amendment) Act, 2005 with effect from 20.01.2006 and on the validity of Article 21A of the Constitution inserted by the Constitution (Eighty-Sixth Amendment) Act, 2002 with effect from 01.04.2010.

Issues

The main issues in the case were:

  1. Whether by inserting Clause (5) in Article 15 of the Constitution by the Constitution (Ninety-third Amendment) Act, 2005, Parliament has altered the basic structure or framework of the Constitution.
  2. Whether by inserting Article 21A of the Constitution by the Constitution
    (Eighty-Sixth Amendment) Act, 2002, Parliament has altered the basic
    structure or framework of the Constitution.

Contentions on behalf of the Petitioners

It was submitted that Clause (5) of Article 15 of the Constitution is violative of Article 14 of the Constitution inasmuch as it treats unequal as equals. The counsel argued that Clause (5) of Article 15 of the Constitution fails to make a distinction between aided and unaided educational institutions and treats both aided and unaided alike in the matter of making special provisions for advancement of socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes insofar as such special provisions relate to their admission to such educational institutions. Article 14 is, thus, violated because aided minority institutions and unaided minority institutions cannot be treated alike. Clause (5) of Article 15 of the Constitution, therefore, is discriminatory and violative of the equality clause in Article 14 of the Constitution, which is a basic feature of the Constitution. As well as Clause (5) of Article 15 of the Constitution is a clear violation of Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution, inasmuch as it compels private educational institutions to give up a share of the available seats to the candidates chosen by the State and such appropriation of seats would not be a regulatory measure and not a reasonable restriction on the right under Article 19(1) (g) of the Constitution within the meaning of Article 19(6) of the Constitution.

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Private educational institutions, which intend to provide better professional education, cannot be forced by the State to make admissions available on the basis of reservation policy to less meritorious candidates and that unaided institutions, as they are not deriving any aid from State funds, should have their own admissions following a fair, transparent and non-exploitative method based on merit. He vehemently submitted that when reservation in favour of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes and other socially and educationally backward classes of citizens is made in admission to private educational institutions and unaided private educational institutions by the State, such private educational institutions will no longer be institutions of excellence. Clause (5) of Article 15 of the Constitution insofar as it enables the State to take away this choice for admission of students is violative of freedom of private educational institutions under Article 19(1) (g) of the Constitution.

In support of the above contentions excerpts from the case Minerva Mills Ltd. and Ors.v. Union of India and Ors. has been referred that the need to protect liberty is the greatest when the government purposes are beneficent particularly when political pressures exercised by numerically large groups can tear the country as under by leaving it to the legislature to pick and choose favoured areas and favourite classes for preferential treatment. He submitted that Clause (5) of Article 15 of the Constitution is an amendment made by Parliament to appease socially and educationally backward classes of citizens and the Scheduled Castes or the Scheduled Tribes for political gains and it is for the Court to protect the fundamental right of private educational institutions Under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution as interpreted by this Court in T.M.A. Pai Foundation.

Contentions on behalf of the Respondent

In response to the above contentions it was argued that this Court has held in Ashoka Kumar Thakur v. Union of India (supra) that Clause (5) of Article 15 of the Constitution is only an enabling provision empowering the State to make a special provision, by law, for the advancement of socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes insofar as such special provisions relate to their admission to educational institutions including private educational institutions. In response to the first contention, raised by petitioners that, “Clause 5 of Article 15 is violative of equality principle as this article treat unequals as equals by bringing reservation rules to both aided and unaided schools”.

In T.M.A. Pai Foundation it was held that reserving a small percentage of seats in private educational institutions, aided or unaided, for weaker, poorer and backward sections of society did not in any way affect the right of private educational institutions under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution.

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Clause (5) of Article 15 introduced by the constitutional amendment is consistent with the right to establish and administer the private educational institutions under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution as interpreted by T.M.A. Pai Foundation and, therefore, does not violate the right under Article19(1)(g) of the Constitution.

In response to the second contention that Clause (5) of Article 15 of the Constitution is violative of secularism insofar as it excludes religious minority institutions referred to in Article 30(1) of the Constitution from the purview of Clause (5) of Article 15 of the Constitution. In Dr. M. Ismail Faruqui and Ors. v. Union of India and Ors., this Court has held that the Preamble of the Constitution read in particular with Articles 15 to 28 emphasis this aspect and indicates that the concept of secularism embodied in the constitutional scheme is a creed adopted by the Indian people. Hence, secularism is no doubt a basic feature of the Constitution, but we fail to appreciate how Clause (5) of Article 15 of the Constitution which excludes religious minority institutions in Clause (1) of Article 30 of the Constitution is in any way violative of the concept of secularism. On the other hand, this Court has held in T.M.A. Pai Foundation (supra) that the essence of secularism in India is the recognition and preservation of the different types of people, with diverse languages and different beliefs and Articles 29 and 30 seek to preserve such differences and at the same time unite the people of India to form one strong nation.

Lastly in response to the final contention, ‘the fundamental right under Article 21 read with Article 51A(j) of the Constitution is violated by Clause (5) of Article 15 of the Constitution. According to Mr.Nariman, every person has a right under Article 21 and a duty under Article 51A(j) to strive towards excellence in all spheres of individual and collective activity, but this will not be possible if private educational institutions in which a person studies for the purpose of achieving excellence are made to admit students from amongst backward classes of citizens and from the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes. This contention, in our considered opinion, is not founded on the experience of educational institutions in India. Educational institutions in India such as KendriyaVidyalayas, Indian Institute of Technology, All India Institute of Medical Sciences and Government Medical Colleges admit students in seats reserved for backward classes of citizens and for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes and yet these Government institutions have produced excellent students who have grown up to be good administrators, academicians, scientists, engineers, doctors and the like. Moreover, the contention that excellence will be compromised by admission from amongst the backward classes of citizens and the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes in private educational institutions is contrary to the Preamble of the Constitution which promises to secure to all citizens “fraternity assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the nation”. The goals of fraternity, unity and integrity of the nation cannot be achieved unless the backward classes of citizens and the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, who for historical factors, have not advanced are integrated into the main stream of the nation. We, therefore, find no merit in the submission of Mr. Nariman that Clause (5) of Article 15 of the Constitution violates the right under Article 21 of the constitution.

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Summary of court decision and judgement

None of the rights under Articles 14, 19(1)(g) and 21 of the Constitution had been abrogated by Clause (5) of Article 15 of the Constitution and the view taken by Bhandari, J. in Ashoka Kumar Thakur v. Union of India that the imposition of reservation on unaided institutions by the Ninety third Amendment has abrogated Article 19(1)(g), a basic feature of the Constitution is not correct. Instead, the Court held that the (Ninety-third Amendment) Act, 2005 of the Constitution inserting Clause (5) of Article 15 of the Constitution was valid.

Analysis

The object of Clause (5) of Article 15 is to enable the State to give equal opportunity to socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes to study in all educational institutions other than minority educational institutions referred in Clause (1) of Article 30 of the Constitution. This will be clear from the Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Bill, which after enactment became the Constitution (Ninety-Third Amendment) Act, 2005 extracted here in below: Greater access to higher education including professional education to a larger number of students belonging to the socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes has been a matter of major concern. At present, the number of seats available in aided or State maintained institutions, particularly in respect of professional education, is limited in comparison to those in private unaided institutions.

Conclusion

Thus, in this case, it was declared that clause (5) of Article 15 of the constitution is valid and this does not alter the basic structure of the constitution. The court also holds that the 2009 Act is not Ultra Vires Article 19 (1) (g) of the Constitution. However, it was held that the 2009 Act insofar as it applies to minority schools, aided or unaided, covered under clause (1) of Article 30 of the Constitution is ultra vires the Constitution.