11 December 1996
Supreme Court


Case number: C.A. No.-015704-015704 / 1996
Diary number: 7389 / 1994






DATE OF JUDGMENT:       11/12/1996




JUDGMENT:                       J U D G M E N T B.P. JEEVAN REDDY, J.      The rule  governing admission  to  LL.B.  course  among other courses  prescribed by  the Panjab University provided that while  admission shall  be made  on the basis of merit, ten  percent   of  the  marks  obtained  in  the  qualifying examination shall  be added  in the  case of  candidates who have passed  the  qualifying  examination  from  the  Panjab University. The impugned rule reads:      "(vi) Admission  shall be  made  on      merit  which  shall  be  determined      after giving weightage as under:      (a)  10%   marks  obtained  in  the      aggregate marks  of the  qualifying      examination  passed   from   Panjab      University."      A number of writ petitions were filed in the Punjab and Haryana  High   Court  by  students,  who  have  passed  the qualifying examination  from universities  other than Panjab University, questioning  the validity  of the said weightage rule. According  to them,  the rule  violates  the  equality clause enshrined  in Articles  14 and 15 of the Constitution and ought to be approached this Court by way of this Special Leave Petition.      Leave granted.  Heard the counsel for the appellant and the Panjab University.      There is  little doubt  that addition of ten percent of marks  to   candidates  who  have  passed  their  qualifying examination from  Panjab University  confers  a  substantial advantage to  the candidates  from the  university over  the candidates who  have passed  the qualifying examination from other universities.  The result of the operation of the said rule is  stated in  the judgment  of the  High Court  on the basis of  the information  furnished by  the counsel for the university.  In  the  Academic  Year  1991-92,  out  of  360 students admitted  into the  LL.B. course,  74 students were from other  universities. For the Academic Year 1992-93, the non-Panjab University  students were  57 out  of 300. In the Academic Year 1993-94, their strength came down to 47 out of a total admission of 300 students. The question is - is this



rule valid?  IN  other  words,  the  issue  is  whether  the weightage of  ten percent  marks given  to students of one’s own university  in the  matter  of  admission  to  different courses  in   its  constituent  of  affiliated  colleges  is permissible where  the admission  is not based upon a common entrance test? Inasmuch as a certain dissonance is found in the decisions  on the  subject, we have heard the counsel at some length. Sri Dhruv Mehta, learned counsel for the Panjab University, has  brought to our notice the several decisions on the subject to which a brief reference would be in order.      In D.N.Chanchala v. State of Mysore [1971 Suppl. S.C.R.608], a three-Judge Bench of this Court considered the validity  of  Rule  9(1)  of  the  Mysore  Medical  Colleges (selection for  Admission) Rules, 1970 relating to admission to M.B.B.S. course. Rule 9(1) provided that the seats in the general pool  shall be  distributed  university-wise,  i.e., seats in  colleges affiliated  to the  Karnataka  University shall  be   allotted  to   persons  passing   from  colleges affiliated  to   that  university   and  seats  in  colleges affiliated  to   Bangalore  and  Mysore  Universities  shall respectively be  allotted to  persons passing  from colleges affiliated to  each such  university provided  that not more than twenty  percent of the seats in the colleges affiliated to any  university  may,  in  the  discretion  of  selection committee, be  allotted to  students passing  from  colleges affiliated to any other university in the State or elsewhere in India.  The validity  of the  rule was  questioned on the ground that  it brings  about an unreasonable classification which is  neither intelligible nor has a rational nexus with the object  of the rule. It was submitted that when there is one selection  committee  for  all  the  government  medical colleges in  all  the  three  universities  and  59  private colleges affiliated  to  them,  the  reservation  of  eighty percent  of   seats  in  favour  of  students  of  the  same university is neither reasonable nor valid. The challenge to the validity  was repelled  holding that  "there is  nothing undesirable  in   ensuring  that   those  attached  to  such universities  have  their  ambitions  to  have  training  in specialised  subjects   like  medicine   satisfied   through colleges affiliated  to their  own  universities...The  fact that a  candidate having lesser marks might obtain admission at the  cost of  another  having  higher  marks  from  other university does not necessarily mean that a less meritorious candidate gets  advantage over a more meritorious one. As is well-known, different  universities have different standards in the  examination  held  by  them.  A  preference  to  one attached to one university in its own institutions for post- graduate or  technical training is not uncommon.... Further, the Government  which bears  the financial burden of running the Government colleges is entitled to lay down criteria for admission in its own colleges and to decide the sources from which admission  would be  made, provided,  of course,  such classification is not arbitrary and has a rational basis and a reasonable  connection with  the object of the rules." The argument  of   excessive  reservation   in  favour  of  same university candidates was also repelled.      In Jagdish  Saran v.  Union of  India [1980  (2) S.C.R. 831], the admission rules prescribed by the Delhi University provided that  seventy percent  of the  seats at  the  post- graduate level  in the medical courses shall be reserved for students who  have obtained  their M.B.B.S.  degree from the same university.  The remaining  thirty percent  seats  were open to  all, including  the  graduates  of  Delhi.  Krishna Iyer,J., speaking  for the  three-Judge Bench,  reviewed all the decisions  rendered till  then on  the subject including



D.N.Chanchala. From the last mentioned decision, the learned Judge drew  the conclusion  that "University-wise prefential treatment may  still be consistent with the rule of equality of opportunity  where it  is  to  correct  an  imbalance  or handicap and  permit  equality  in  the  larger  sense....If university-wise  classification  for  post-graduate  medical education is  shown to  be relevant  and reasonable  and the differential has  a nexus to the larger goal of equalisation of educational opportunities, the vice of discrimination may not invalidate  the rule."  The learned  Judge rejected  the argument that  since every  university is  providing similar reservation,  the   reservation  cannot   be  said   to   be unreasonable. The  reasonableness of any such rule has to be examined on a totality of the facts and cannot be justified, the learned  Judge said,  merely because  other universities have provided  a similar rule. The learned Judge pointed out that the  admissions to  post-graduate medical  courses  are determined on  the basis of a common entrance test. Inasmuch as the  students of Delhi University are drawn from all over India and  are not confined to the Delhi region, the learned Judge held,  the rule  is "not  that invidious". The learned Judge  also  recognised  the  desire  of  the  students  for institutional continuity  in education  and recognised it as one of  the ground  justifying the reservation. The argument of excessive reservation was rejected on the ground that the material  placed   before  the   Court  was   imperfect  and inadequate to form a basis for invalidating the rule.      In  Dr.   Pradeep  Jain  v.Union  of  India  [1984  (3) S.C.C.654], the Court opined that wholesale reservation made by some of the State governments on the basis of domicile or requirement of residence within the State or on the basis of institutional preference  for students  who have  passed the qualifying examination  held by  the university or the State and  excluding   all  students   not  satisfying   the  said requirement, regardless  of merit, is unconstitutional being violative of  Article 14.  Affirming that  anyone  from  any where  in   the  country,   irrespective  of  his  language, religion, place  of birth  or residence,  is entitled  to be afforded  equal   chance  of   admission  to   any   secular educational course anywhere in the country, but, at the same time, recognising  the de facto inequalities existing in the society and the need for affirmative action on that account, the Court  directed that  thirty percent of the seats in the M.B.B.S course  and fifty  percent of the seats in the post- graduate medical  courses in  all the government colleges in the country  should be  set apart for being filled purely on the basis  of merit. Students from all over the country were held entitled  to compete  for these seats and the admission was directed  to be  based upon  merit and merit alone. [The above percentage  was brought  down to  fifteen percent  and twenty five  percent respectively in the subsequent decision in Dr.Dinesh  Kumar  v.  Motilal  Nehru  College  (1986  (3) S.C.C.727)]. The  discussion in  Para 19  of the Judgment is relevant since  it refers to the various contending factors, the earlier  decisions of  these Court  and the direction in which the  court ought  to proceed. The court also held that so far  as super-specialities are concerned, there should be no  reservation   either  on   the  basis  of  institutional preference  or  otherwise  and  that  admissions  should  be granted purely on merit determined on All-India basis.      In State  of Rajasthan  v. Dr.  Ashok Kumar Gupta [1989 (1)  S.C.C.93],   the  Rajasthan  University  provided  that admission to  post-graduate medical  courses in the colleges affiliated to  the said  university shall  be based upon the merit determined at the competitive examination called ’PG".



The PG  competitive examination  was common  to all the five medical colleges  in the  State. The rule, however, provided further that  "(d) the  total marks  so obtained  (at the PG competitive examination  shall be converted into percentage. The percentage  so obtained  shall be  increased as follows: (i)  by   five  if  the  applicant  passed  the  final  MBBS examination from  the same institution from which selections are being  made." The  validity of sub-clause (ii) of clause (d) alone  was challenged  as violative  of Article  14. The Court noticed  that all  the five  medical colleges  in  the State [located  at Jaipur,  Bikaner,  Udaipur,  Jodhpur  and Ajmer] were  not similarly situated in the sense that Jaipur Medical College  was generally  considered to  be the best - also because  it offered  many more  PG courses  than  other colleges. The Court held that addition of five percent marks to the  marks obtained  by students  who have  passed  their examination from, say, Jaipur Medical College, in the matter of  admission  to  post-graduate  medical  courses  in  that medical college, brings about an extremely unfair and unjust result. In  the case  of admission  to post-graduate medical courses where  each mark  counts, addition  of five  percent marks  on   the  ground   of  institutional  [same  college] preference was  held to  be excessive  and unreasonable and, therefore, void.  It was  pointed out  that by virtue of the said rule  of preference, students with far less marks would steal a  march over  a student  securing higher  marks  only because he has passed his M.B.B.S. examination from the same college.      In Municipal  Corporation of  Greater Bombay v. Thukral Anjali Dev  Kumar [1989  (2) S.C.C.249], the admission rules provided a  preference in favour of "candidates applying for admission at  the parent  institution". The note appended to the rule defined the expression "parent institution" to mean "the medical  college at  which the candidate has passed his qualifying  examination".   The  matter   again  related  to admission to  post-graduate medical  courses. The  rule  was struck down by this Court holding that it practices a patent discrimination and that there is no intelligible differentia to  justify  the  said  classification,  viz.,  college-wise preference.    The    Bench    comprising    M.M.Dutt    and T.K.Thommen,JJ. followed  the  decision  in  Dr.Ashok  Kumar Gupta and  held that  college-based institutional preference is impermissible.  The unfairness of the rule was held to be demonstrable  and   patent.  The  Court  also  rejected  the contention that  because the  standard of  the  students  in practical examinations  differ from  college to college, the college-wise preference was not invalid.      In P.K.Goyal v. Uttar Pradesh Medical Council [1992 (3) S.C.C.232], the  relevant rule  provided that  "based on the marks obtained  at the  competitive entrance examination and the candidates’s choice of the course, a merit list shall be prepared for  each college."  To wit, while the admission to post-graduate  medical   courses  in   Uttar   Pradesh   was determined on  the basis  of marks  obtained at the combined entrance examination  conducted by the government, the rules provided  at   the  same   time  that   admission  shall  be institution-wise, i.e.,  from among  the students  who  have passed M.B.B.S.  course from  that particular  college. This was held  to  be  violative  of  Article  14  following  the decisions in  Dr. Ashok  Kumar Gupta  and Thukral Anjali Dev Kumar.      In  Anant   Madaan  v.   State  of  Haryana  [1995  (2) S.C.C.135], decided  by a Bench of two Judges including, one of us  [B.P.Jeevan Reddy,J.],  the challenge  was to  a rule made by  the Government  of Haryana providing that in matter



of admission to M.B.B.S./B.D.S. courses, eighty five percent of the  seats shall  be reserved  for  candidates  who  have studied   10th,    11th   and    12th   examinations    from schools/colleges outside  the State  of  Haryana  but  whose parents were either residing in or domiciled in the State of Haryana. The  challenge to  the rule  was repelled following the decision  of the  Constitution Bench  of this  Court  in D.P.Joshi v.  State of  Madhya Bharat  [1955 (1) S.C.R.1215] and the  decisions in  Jagdish Saran,  Dr.Pradeep  Jain  and Dinesh Kumar.  The impugned  rule was, however, treated as a rule    providing    preference    on    the    ground    of domicile/residence.      Sanjay Ahlawat v. Maharishi Dayanand University, Rohtak [1995 (2)  S.C.C.762] was  again a  case from  the State  of Haryana. The decision was rendered by a Bench of two Judges, including one of us [B.P.Jeevan Reddy,J.J. The challenge was to the  rule providing  that in  the matter  of admission to post-graduate medical  courses, preference be given to local candidates by  adding ten  extra marks,  i.e.,  to  students passing the  M.B.B.S. examination  from the  Rohtak  Medical College. The  rule further  provided that  students who  are residents or  domiciled in the State of Haryana but who have passed their  M.B.B.S. examination  from a  medical  college outside the  State of Haryana shall be added five marks. The validity of the rule was sustained observing that it was not a case  of college-wise, or for that matter university-wise, reservation but it is a rule providing for preference on the basis of  domicile. It  was held  on the  basis of facts and figures furnished  by the  State that  the said rule did not have the  effect of  shutting  the  doors  of  admission  to students passing  their M.B.B.S.  course from  other medical colleges than  the Rohtak Medical College, which was said to be the  only medical college in the State of Haryana. It was shown to  the Court that outside students also got admission in reasonable  numbers. The  Court accepted  the explanation furnished by  the State  that extra  marks were  awarded  to graduates of  the Rohtak  College  to  ensure  that  medical facilities in  the State  are not impaired because of dearth of  doctors.   The  Court   accepted  the  explanation  that residents of  Haryana will,  by and large, remain in Haryana after obtaining medical degrees and that their services will be available  to the  people of  the State. In view of these circumstances, the  rule was  held to  be not  violative  of Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution.      Lastly, we may refer to a three-Judge Bench decision in Gujarat  University   v.  Rajiv  Gopinath  Bhatt  [1996  (4) S.C.C.60]. The  Gujarat University  invited applications for admission to  two super-speciality courses, D.M. and M.C.H., the admission  whereto was  to be  made based upon the marks obtained  at  the  entrance  examination  conducted  by  the university. Because  of the  small number of seats available in  the   said  courses,   the  rule  provided  that  "first preference  will   be  given   to  candidates  from  Gujarat University. Second  preference will  be given  to candidates from other   universities  of  Gujarat  State.  Any  vacancy remaining after  this shall  remain unfilled".  By the time, the appeal came up for hearing before this Court, the appeal bad become infructuous as noticed in Para 4 of the Judgment, inasmuch as  the respondent  was allowed  to join the course and had also completed the course by that date. In that view of the  matter, the  Court was of the opinion that it is not actually required to examine the grievance made on behalf of the appellant-university  against the  judgment of  the High Court which  had struck  down the  rule.  Even  so,  at  the instance of  the  counsel  for  the  university,  the  court



examined the validity of the rule. The High Court had relied upon the  decision of  this Court  in Jagdish  Saran and Dr. Pradeep Jain for invalidating the rule. This Court, however, sustained the rule, except the last sentence therein, on the following reasoning:      "Without   examining that  question      in detail,  it may  be pointed  out      that   the    aforesaid   judgments      (Jagdish Saran  and  Pradeep  Jain)      were not  in  connection  with  the      admission    in    super-speciality      course.  At   the  same   time,  we      reiterate  that   object   of   any      institution     while     selecting      applicants for  admission is select      the best  amongst  the  applicants,      regional and  other  considerations      which do  not satisfy  the test  of      Art.14 of  the Constitution  should      not affect  the merit criteria. But      from  time   to  time,  this  court      taking into consideration the local      and regional  compulsion have  been      making efforts  to strike a balance      so  that   the  students  who  have      pursued the studies in a particular      State and have been admitted in the      medical colleges  of that State are      not suddenly  thrown on  the street      when question of their admission in      super seats are limited in number."      After referring  to certain  observations in Dr.Pradeep Jain and Anant Madaan, the Court observed, "(T)herefore if a rule has  been framed  that out  of the merit list prepared, preference is  to  be  given  for  admission  in  the  super speciality courses  to the  students of  the  University  in question,  per  se  it  cannot  be  held  to  be  arbitrary, unreasonable   or   violative   of   Article   14   of   the Constitution."      From the decided cases, following principles emerge: (a)  College-wise  preference  is  not  permissible  in  any event. (b)  University-wise preference  is permissible  provided it is  relevant  and  reasonable.  Seventy  to  eighty  percent reservation has  been sustained,  even where  students  from different universities appear at a common entrance test. the trend, however,  is towards  reducing the  reservations  and providing greater weight to merit. The practice all over the country today,  as a  result of the decisions of this Court, is to  make fifteen  percent of the seats in M.B.B.S. course and twenty  five  percent  of  the  seats  in  post-graduate medical courses  in all  the Government  medical colleges in the country  [except Andhra  Pradesh and  Jammu  &  Kashmir] available  on  the  basis  of  merit  alone.  Students  from anywhere in  the country  can compete  for these seats which are allotted  on the basis of an All-India test conducted by the designated authority. (c)  The   rule    of   preference    on   the    basis   of domicile/requirement of  residence is not bad provided it is within reasonable  limits,  i.e.,  it  does  not  result  in reserving more  than eighty  five percent  seats in graduate courses and  more than  seventy five  percent seats in post- graduate courses.  But  district-wise  reservations  are  an anathema. (d)  Where the  students from  different universities appear



at a common entrance test/examination [on the basis of which admissions are  made] the rule of university-wise preference too must  shed some  of its  relevance. The  explanation  of difference in evaluation, standard of education and syllabus lose much of their significance when admission is based upon a common  entrance test.  At the same time, the right of the State governments  [which have  established  and  maintained these institutions] to regulate the process of admission and their desire  to provide  for their own students should also be accorded due deference. (e)  The fair  and proper rule is: the higher you go, in any discipline, lesser  should be the reservations - of whatever kind. It  is for  this reason that it was said in Dr.Pradeep Jain that  there should  be no reservations in the matter of admission  to   super-specialities,  though  in  the  recent decision in  Rajiv Gopinath  Bhatt, a different view appears to have  been taken  while affirming the principle of merit, at the  same time.  In the larger interest of the nation, it is dangerous  to depreciate  merit  and  excellence  in  any field.      Now let us examine the facts of the case before us from the standpoint  of above  principles. The  reservation being university-wise, it  cannot be said to be bad. Having regard to the fact that the case is one of admission to LL.B course and also  having regard  to the  fact that  admission of ten percent of  marks is  yet on  the higher side. The result of the rule  is evident  in the figures mentioned hereinbefore. The  representation  of  students  from  other  universities appears  to   be  coming   down  steadily.  In  the  present competitive  age,   ten  percent   of  marks   will  make  a substantial difference. May be, the addition, if any, should not exceed five percent      Inasmuch as  the admissions concerned herein pertain to the year  1993-94, it is snot possible to give any relief to the appellant  herein. We  do, however,  hope and trust that the university will take into consideration the observations made herein  and modify  the rule accordingly so as to avoid any avoidable  litigation and  complications  for  the  next academic year.      The appeal  is disposed of in the above terms. No order as to costs.