The Kerala High Court has quashed a petition filed by some Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes (SC/ST) members, which claimed that giving separate reservation to Persons with Disability (PWD) in the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) violated their right to equality.
Dismissing the plea, Justice N. Nagaresh observed that PWDs form a homogenous class by themselves and the law enables them to be treated separately, which erases any question of violation of Article 14.
He said Article 14 ensures equal treatment for equally placed persons, which, in other words, means that unequals can be treated unequally.
He further said that the persons claiming “social reservation fall in one compartment and persons with disabilities who are included in the quota fall on a different distinct compartment” and therefore, there was “no question of violation of Article 14 of the Constitution.”
The single-judge bench stated that the state was empowered to provide two channels of admission as the classifications were rational and aimed at achieving a laudable objective.
The order was passed on a petition filed by candidates belonging to Scheduled Caste communities, who appeared in NEET 2021 for admission to medical courses in Kerala.
As per the prospectus and various Government Orders, 10 per cent seats in government medical colleges are reserved for SC/ST candidates.
However, the Commissioner of Entrance Examinations, in Clause 4.1.5 of the Prospectus, imposed a condition that SC/ST candidates shall be allotted seats after leaving the seats set apart for the All-India Quota, Government of India Nominees, Special reservations, Persons with Disabilities, all types of supernumerary seats sanctioned, and management quota.
The petitioners contended that the two classes entitled for reservation are discriminated among them and such adoption of criteria lead to a marginal decrease in the available seats for SC/ST candidates.
The Commissioner countered that the enabling provisions contained in the Constitution enable the State to make any special provisions by law for the advancement of socially and economically backward citizens, or for the Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes in the matter of admission to educational institutions.
Justice Nagaresh gave the example of the Supreme Court order in K. Duraisamy v. State of Tamil Nadu, which held that
“the Government possesses the right and authority to decide from what sources the admissions in educational institutions or to particular disciplines and courses therein have to be made and that too in what proportion”.
The Court said the State can identify classes of persons who are having distinct characteristics or disadvantages and treat them separately under law.
The petitioners were represented by Advocates K. Siju, S. Abhilash and Anjana Kannath, while Government Pleader P.G. Pramod and advocate Titus Mani represented the respondents.