Title: Viney Chaudhary vs UOI & Secretary of Higher Education
W.P.(C) 3285/2023 & CM APPL. 12796/2023
CORAM: HON’BLE MR. JUSTICE SURESH KUMAR KAIT
HON’BLE MS. JUSTICE NEENA BANSAL KRISHNA
Delhi High Court Dismissed the petition seeking to quash government order giving the categories of Priority within the reservations provided in the Army quota of 5% for admission to various Colleges, and directs the government to treat Priority No. VIII above the Priority No. VI or in alternative to consider both the Priority Nos. VI and VIII at the same podium for the admissions in the forthcoming Academic Year 2023-24.
Facts of the Case
The petitioner’s wife is a Lieutenant Colonel in the Indian Army and is stationed in New Delhi at the moment. The petitioner’s son, Master Divyansh Chaudhary, a Class XII student at Delhi Public School in R.K. Puram, is interested in pursuing a Bachelor of Technology (hereinafter referred to as “B.Tech” Course), for which the Joint Entrance Examination (Main) (JEE) serves as the qualifying examination. The said examination was scheduled to be held from April 6 to April 12, 2023.
The respondent No. 1 created nine categories with corresponding Priorities in its Order dated May 21, 2018, and eligible candidates under each category would be entitled to admission based on their respective Priority regardless of their ranks or mark totals.
The son of the petitioner discovered that the majority of reservation benefits are only being taken away by Priority-VI, leaving no seat available for the remaining Priorities, especially Priority-VIII, in order to obtain admission to various professional courses, after reviewing the cutoff charts of various engineering colleges run by the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (hereinafter referred to as “GNCTD”).
Thus, the petitioner has contested the Letter/Order of May 21, 2018, claiming that the distinction between Priority VI and Priority VIII violates his fundamental legal rights and deprives him of his right to equality.
Analysis and Decision of the court
In the present petition the petitioner has challenged only the list of priorities for reservation issued by the government and defence ministry for the wards of defence personnel to various medical/professional/non-professional courses. It is important to note that the petitioner has not contested the 5% reservation given to dependents of members of the armed forces, but rather feels wronged by the revised list of priorities placement of dependents of serving personnel in Priority VIII while those of ex-servicemen in Priority VI. The petitioner claims that there is no discernible distinction to put the children of serving soldiers in a group lower.
The court also highlighted that Priority VIII and Priority VI should be combined since the division of the priority between military members and ex-servicemen’s wards is not based on any discernible differences.
In the case of Union of India v. M. Selvakumar (2017) 3 SCC 504, the Apex Court ruled that horizontal reservations in the context of governmental policy are outside the purview of the courts and that they are not the appropriate forum to consider whether a given public policy is sensible and acceptable or whether a better one can be developed. However, the Courts are not prohibited from intervening in those situations when a policy choice might be criticised on the grounds of mala fide, unreasonableness, arbitrariness, or unfairness. The Supreme Court shared a similar opinion in its rulings in the cases of State of Madhya Pradesh vs. Mala Banerjee (2015) 7 SCC 698 and Ugar Sugar Works Ltd. vs. Delhi Administration (2001) 3 SCC 635.
The advantage of reservations for wards of ex-servicemen had not, in this instance, been denied to the children of current soldiers. The Government of India’s Ministry of Defence has made a policy directive defining how children of Army officers may use their reservations in certain categories. The classification of the wards in Priority VI and Priority VIII does not involve any arbitrary decision-making, irrational behaviour, or intentional wrongdoing.
The case of The Chief Secretary vs. D. Kuralarasan MANU/TN/6162/2021, in which the children of serving personnel were totally omitted from the admissions advertisement, illustrates instances in which a policy choice may be interfered with by the court. The Court intervened to request that they be included to the Priority list for admission to the professional course after it was noted that the exclusion of the wards of the serving personnel without any basis or justification was inappropriate in that situation.
The petitioner questions why the wards of serving personnel should be placed in the last but one category, Priority VIII, while the wards of ex-servicemen receive priority VI, when wards and wives of ex-servicemen as well as serving personnel who are receiving Gallantry Awards, can be placed together in one category, be it Priority V or Priority VII.
The respondent No. 1 in the counter affidavit has explained that although the Government of India had initially decided to grant the benefit to the wives and wards of former service members or recipients of the Gallantry Award, it was ultimately discovered that some positions remained unfilled even after the benefit had been granted to the wards of all the categories. The inclusion of the category of wards of serving people as Priority VIII is solely intended to guarantee that the advantage of reservation is completely utilised, exhausted, and not left unutilized.
The Government Order F.No.6(1)/2017/D (Res.II) dated 21.05.2018 mostly governs how the reserve quota is utilised horizontally. The aforementioned policy hasn’t been accused of being arbitrary or malicious. We don’t see any reason to challenge the Government Order from May 21, 2018, or to rearrange the Priority categories as specified therein.
Thus, the High court dismissed the petition along with pending applications.
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Written By – Shreyanshu Gupta