Case Name: M. R. Balaji And Others vs State Of Mysore on 28 September, 1962
Equivalent Citations: 1963 AIR 649, 1962 SCR Supl. (1) 439
Author: P Gajendragadkar
Bench: Sinha, Bhuvneshwar P.(Cj), Gajendragadkar, P.B., Wanchoo, K.N., Gupta, K.C. Das, Shah, J.C.
Facts of MR Balaji vs State of Mysore
On July 26, 1958, the State of Mysore issued a rule. It said that all communities, except the Brahmin community, were considered educationally and socially backward, along with Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. This rule reserved 75% of seats in schools and colleges for these groups. Similar rules were issued on May 14, 1959, July 22, 1959, June 9, 1960 and July 10, 1961. The percentage of reserved seats varied in these rules, but all of them were challenged and put aside.
Then, on July 31, 1962, the State of Mysore made a new rule. This new rule cancelled all the previous rules that reserved seats under Article 15 (4) for certain groups. Instead, the backward classes were split into two groups: backward classes and more backward classes. This new rule reserved 68% of seats in engineering, medical colleges and other technical institutions for educationally and socially backward classes, as well as Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Only 32% of seats were left for students with high merit.
The issues before the Supreme Court in MR Balaji vs State of Mysore were:
- Can the State create two categories of backward classes known as “backward classes” and “more backward classes”?
- Is reserving 68% of seats in educational institutions a reasonable and feasible action?
- Does the State possess the constitutional authority under Article 15 (4) to enact such reservation orders?
Admission process for colleges – Allocating seats for socially and educationally backward classes, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes – Interpretation – Influence of Directive Principles – Supreme Court’s decision not to set a fixed percentage – Relevance of Constitution of India, Articles 15(4), 16(4), 29(2), 46, 340.
Arguments in MR Balaji vs State of Mysore
Writ petitions were submitted in MR Balaji vs State of Mysore to challenge the validity of the order, as the petitioners argued that the classification introduced by this order lacks reasoning and the 68% reservation is a deception under Article 15 (4).
On January 29, 1953, these writ petitions were presented to contest the validity of the order and they were successful, leading to the cancellation of the challenged order. The petitioners’ concern is that the impugned order, which has prevented their admission to respective colleges, is invalid according to Article 15 (1) and 29 (2).
They request the issuance of a directive writ against the first respondent in MR Balaji vs State of Mysore, the State of Mysore and the two selection committees, labelled as Respondents 2 and 3. They also argued that the extent of reservation specified in the order is not reasonable and cannot be justified by Article 15 (4). The State disputes these claims, asserting that the order is a deceptive exercise of the State’s authority and amounts to a violation of the Constitution.
Judgement in MR Balaji vs State of Mysore
The court decided in MR Balaji vs State of Mysore that the questioned order was an abuse of the constitutional authority given to the State through Article 15(4) and should be nullified. The order separated the backward classes solely based on their caste, which is not allowed by Article 15(4). The reservation of 68% of seats goes against the idea of the special provision permitted by Article 15(4).
However, the court in MR Balaji v State of Mysore refrained from setting a fixed and strict percentage for reservations, emphasising that reservation must aid the progress of marginalised sections of society. But care should be taken not to exclude well-qualified candidates from other communities.
Reservations under Articles 15(4) and 16(4) must remain within reasonable boundaries. Balancing the interests of weaker sections, which have priority, with the interests of the whole community is crucial. Generally, a special provision should be below 50%, but the exact percentage should vary based on the specific circumstances of each case.
The court held in MR Balaji vs State of Mysore that the purpose of Article 15(4) is to enhance the overall welfare of society by safeguarding the interests of its vulnerable elements. Any provision under Article 15(4) that disregards society’s welfare is beyond its scope. It’s highly unreasonable to assume that when creating Article 15(4), the Parliament intended to ignore the fundamental rights of citizens who are part of the rest of society while advancing the backward classes and Scheduled Castes and Tribes. National interests and the welfare of the entire community must always be considered.
Article 15 of the Constitution underwent an amendment, incorporating Article 15(4), following rulings by the court in the cases of State of Madras v. Smt. Champakam Dorairajan and State of Madras v. C. R. Srinivasan  S. C. R. 525. Article 15(4) is a provision that sets conditions or exceptions to Articles 15(1) and 29(2). If an order is justified by Article 15(4), its legality cannot be challenged by arguing that it goes against Article 15(4) or Article 29(2).
While it’s true that the Constitution envisions the establishment of a commission whose findings and suggestions can guide authorities in taking appropriate measures for the upliftment of backward classes, this doesn’t mean that the commission’s formation and subsequent actions are a necessary requirement before acting under Article 15(4). Special provisions specified in Article 15(4) can be instituted by the Union or States through executive orders. The idea that only the President can make such provisions for the advancement of backward classes is unfounded.
Article 15(4) empowers the State to enact specific measures for the progress of socially and educationally disadvantaged citizens, distinct from Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Some backward classes could be included in Scheduled Castes and Tribes via a presidential order, thus aligning them with these categories.
For the purposes of Article 15(4), backwardness needs to be both social and educational. The court held in MR Balaji vs State of Mysore that While caste can be relevant in determining the social backwardness of Hindu groups, it shouldn’t be the sole or dominant criterion. Other sections of Indian society, like Christians, Jains, Muslims, etc., don’t adhere to the caste system. Additionally, social backwardness is largely linked to poverty. Citizens in dire poverty are inherently socially backward. Occupation and place of residence also contribute to social backwardness. Determining socially backward classes is intricate and although caste plays a role, relying solely on it is not acceptable under Article 15(4).
Regarding educational backwardness, the literacy test derived from Census Reports might not be sufficient. The use of the average student population from the last three high school classes as a criterion for educational backwardness could be questionable. Nonetheless, including castes or communities slightly above or very near the State average in the list of backward classes isn’t justifiable. The reasonable approach is to consider classes significantly below the State average as educationally backwards. This matter is for the State to decide, considering the demands of Article 15(4).
The categorisation of backward classes into two groups, namely “backward classes” and “more backward classes,” goes beyond the scope of Article 15 (4). Article 15 (4) allows for special provisions to be made for genuinely disadvantaged classes, but introducing such dual categories aims to create measures for all classes less advanced than the most advanced ones in the State. However, as per the court in MR Balaji vs State of Mysore this doesn’t align with the intended scope of Article 15 (4).
The purpose of instituting special provisions for the progress of specific castes or communities is to fulfil the Directive Principle laid out in Article 46. Swift and generous advancement of the weaker sections’ educational and economic interests is essential to achieve the goal of establishing social and economic equality. Article 15 (4) empowers the State to take necessary measures to achieve this objective.
While implementing appropriate reservations under Article 16 (4), it’s important to avoid setting unreasonable, excessive or extravagant reservations. As per the court in MR Balaji v State of Mysore, such measures could eliminate fair competition within a broad field and lead to widespread dissatisfaction among employees, negatively impacting their efficiency. Similar to improperly made special provisions under Article 15 (4), reservations exceeding the permissible and legitimate limits under Article 16 (4) would be a violation of the Constitution.
MR Balaji vs State of Mysore Summary
In the case of Balaji vs State of Mysore, the Supreme Court addressed the reservation of seats in colleges for socially and educationally backward classes, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. The court held that dividing backward classes into “backward” and “more backward” categories exceeded the scope of Article 15(4) of the Constitution. Article 15(4) permits special provisions for genuinely disadvantaged groups, aligned with Directive Principles like Article 46.
The court in MR Balaji v State of Mysore declined to establish a fixed percentage for reservations under Article 16(4), emphasising that the measure should not be unreasonable or excessive. The judgment stressed that the interests of weaker sections should balance with the overall community interests. The case highlights the necessity of promoting social and educational advancement while avoiding excessive measures that could undermine fairness and efficiency.
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