1. This judgment will dispose of C. Ws. Nos. 2288 and 2626 of 1973.
2. Gurinder Pal Singh petitioner in C.W. No. 2288 of 1973 passed his Pre-Medical Examination from the Punjabi University securing 411 marks without optional paper. He had applied for admission to the two Government Medical Colleges in the State. The dates of interview for the selection of candidates for admission were July 20 and 21, 1973. It is alleged that on July 19, 1973, the petitioner made enquiries from the authorities of the Government Medical College, Patiala, regarding the manner in which admissions to these institutions would be made. He was informed that 50% of the total number of seats were reserved for different categories of candidates and only 50% seats would be allotted on the basis of merit. The special reservation for various categories of students has been made vide letter dated July 7, 1972, issued by the Health and Family Planning Department, Punjab, Chandigarh. The relevant portion of this letter reads as under:--
'In suppression of Punjab Government letter No. 11798-2HBI-71/23954, dated 24-8-1971, the Governor of Punjab is pleased to order than reservation for admission in M.B.B.S. class in State Medical Colleges against 50% seats will now be made as under:--(i) Scheduled Castes/Tribes 20%
(ii) Backward Classes 2%
(iii) Backward areas 10%
(iv) Sportsmen/women 2%
(v) Central Government nominees including from Jammu and Kashmir 6%
(vi) Women candidates 1%
(vii) Candidates from border areas of Punjab (a candidate must be hailing from town/village with a population of 20,000 or less in the twenty miles border belt area and that he/she had studied at least five years in a recognized institution located in such village/town). 5%
(viii) Children of political sufferers of the freedom struggle with Punjab domicile. 2%
(ix) (a) Children of Defence personnel who have lost lives in emergency (b) Children of defence personnel who have been disabled during the National Emergency and released from service. (c) Children of the personnel of the Border Security Forces killed/disabled during enemy action. (d) Children of ex-servicemen/servicemen who are released/ discharged from Armed Forces of Indian Union. 2%
In these petitions the special reservation has been challenged on the ground that the same is not permissible in view of the plain language of Article 15(4) of the Constitution. In Paragraph 9 of he written statement filed by the learned counsel for the respondents, it has been conceded that petitioner No. 2 Miss Kiranjit Dhooria has already been selected for admission at the Medical College, Amritsar. Regarding Gurinder Pal Singh petitioner it has been stated that his name was being kept on the waiting list. It is further averred that he would also have been admitted if there had been no reservation for the candidates as ordered in the impugned letter dated July 7, 1972, issued by the Punjab Government. The admission made in the written statement shows that Gurinder Pal Singh petitioner has a genuine interest in the matter and is competent to challenge the instructions of the State Government contained in the impugned order.
3. Challenge to Item No. (ii) may now be considered. Regarding backward classes, it is submitted that reservation cannot be made for any particular caste or community because backwardness depends more or less upon the economic condition of a family. In this respect, the learned counsel for the State has drawn my attention to a circular letter No. 2662-5WGII-63/6934, dated 20th April, 1963, issued by the State Government which provides that a family whose annual income is less than Rs. 1,000/- should be regarded as a backward family, and some communities which are socially looked down upon by the people of the State and whose annual income does not exceed Rs. 1,800/- and who are so declared by the State Government are also to be regarded as backward communities. It would, thus, appear that this circular amply highlights the aspect of the backwardness of a family before such a family can be declared to belong to a backward class. Such a classification is admissible under the Constitution and cannot be struck down. The constitutional validity of the reservation made at Items Nos. (iv), (v) and (ix) has not been challenged. The next item regarding which a finding has to be given is the 'backward areas'. The learned counsel for the respondent has placed before me a brochure relating to the admissions to the Ist Year Class of the M.B.B.S. Course at the Government Medical Colleges at Patiala and Amritsar. Regarding backward area candidates, the following conditions have been laid down:--
'Backward Area Candidates:
Candidates claiming admission from backward areas of the State should submit along with their applications a certificate from Deputy Commissioner/General Assistant to Deputy Commissioner, Sub-Divisional Officer (Civil) of the District concerned that the claim of the candidate falls under one of the following categories as given in Punjab Government letter No. 15595-WG 56/4174, dated the 7th September, 1956, from the Chief Secretary to the Government of Punjab:
(a) A person who with the family members has been residing in a particular village or town constantly for a period of ten years, or more and is likely to continue to reside there.
(b) A person who has been residing in a village or town for a period of less than ten years, but is likely to reside there on account of the fact that he has obtained gainful employment or settled there after retirement, would also be termed as permanent resident, if the stay is for not less than five years.
(c) In the case of a person who has been residing in a village or town in the said area, the total period of his stay at both places will be counted towards his residence in that area.'
A reading of this provision shows that a person residing in a particular village or a town for a particular period has been shown preference on the basis of residence only. A millionaire and a pauper living in such areas have been treated as par If the object of making reservations in Medical Institutions is to show a preferential treatment to the economically backward people, then one fails to understand how a person living in a backward area who is in fact much richer than may persons who are living in the cities of the same State, can be accorded a preferential treatment with any justification. Article 15(4) of the Constitution provides that the State may make any special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens. The classes of citizens mentioned in this Article do not relate to those citizens who reside within certain geographical limits regardless of their personal attainments or achievements. It is no doubt true that while making laws or while taking executive action, the State can make a reasonable classification on the basis of geographical limits but there must be an object for which such a classification is made and the classification itself must have a reasonable nexus with the object sought to be achieved. Residence in a particular area in a State qua the other citizens of the same State cannot form the basis of claiming additional privileges. If any law makes any such provision, it shall have to be tested on the basis of Article 15 of the Constitution. I am further fortified in this opinion because in making a classification of the backward classes the State itself has made a rational classification between ordinary communities and the communities which are socially looked down upon by the people of the State. In the case of the first category, the limit of family income has been fixed at Rupees 1,000/- per annum and in the case of the second category weightage has been given to offset the effect of social prejudices by fixing the annual income of nature of things backward areas are those the residents of which are economically backward and who are denied the facility of higher education partly because of lack of educational institutions in these areas and partly because their residents do not possess the where-withal to pursue higher education in institutions situate far away. In order to give relief to the really deserving residents of such areas, some yardstick for determining comparative prosperity of the residents has to be provided. The provisions quoted above do not give any such indication. I am of the considered view that reservation for backward areas mentioned at S. No. (iii) in Annexure ('A'), in the absence of any yardstick with which social and educational backwardness of the citizens of the area can be determined, is violative of Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution. This reservation deserves to be struck down.
4. Mr. Chhibber has drawn my attention to Chitra Ghosh v. Union of India, AIR 1970 SC 35, in which a similar reservation made for the residents of Union Territories other than the Delhi State was justified. The facts and circumstances of that case are distinguishable because the Union Territories, which were considered by the Supreme Court in that case, consisted mostly of the erst-while princely States which formed backward areas and there was no Medical College in those areas. At least in respect of Himachal Pradesh, the Supreme Court has made a specific mention of this fact. The same principle cannot be extended to the citizens of the same State who are being denied equal protection of laws on the basis of the place of residence only.
5. In view of my finding on this item, the learned counsel for the petitioner has given up his challenge against the other items mentioned in Annexure 'A'. Even otherwise I was inclined to take the view that the other items prima facie provided a good example of classification based on reasonable grounds, but in view of the concession made by the learned counsel for the petitioner it is not necessary to express a considered opinion on this point.
6. For the reasons mentioned above, these petitions are allowed and it is declared that reservation made for the backward areas in the letter dated July 7, 1972, issued by the Health and Family Planning Department, Punjab, shall not stand in the way of Gurinder Pal Singh, petitioner. The petitioner will also have his costs which are assessed at Rs. 300 in this case.
C. W. No. 2626 of 1973 is also allowed with no order as to costs.
7. Petition allowed.