Brief Facts of the Case
The suitors are students from Sanghvi College. The college has its own admission procedure. This is different from the CAP that the State holds. However, a committee formed by the Government monitors the college’s entrance process. Thus, the suitors gained entry into the college without going through the CAP.
In the last few years, the Government of Maharashtra repaid fees to SC, ST and OBC students pursuing their professional courses. However, it limited this benefit only to students who had taken admission through CAP. The suppliants had filed a petition against this policy. Furthermore, they also asked for the Government to repay their fees.
A three-judge bench heard the case. Justices AA Sayed, DS Naidu and PD Naik formed the bench. It was to decide on the 2013 policy of the Maharashtra government.
The Court traced the goal of handing out reimbursement. It identified it as a form of reservation. Therefore, it recognised that this action intended to uplift the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. It stated that such a distinction between CAP & non-CAP students is against the crux of the policy. Judges recognised ‘reservations’ as a corrective measure, and not a confessional one.
The Court’s Observation
The Court held that admission does not assure growth to any marginalised person. The fact that many such students drop-out of college due to their inability to pay the fees proves it. This is why the Government prepares policies for marginalised sections of society.
The benefit provided to the marginalised section is not merit-based. The Government cannot vouch that SC students admitted through the policy are more studious. A minority institution, getting students admitted through non-CAP, enjoys a constitutional privilege. Justice Naidu put forth the above arguments. He concluded that the classification is not arbitrary.
References made in the Judgment
A full bench of the Bombay HC took up the present case. This was because of the 2 division bench cases that served as references to this case. One was of Association of Management of Unaided Engineering Colleges v. State of Maharashtra (2014). The other was Bapu Supadu Thorat v. State of Maharashtra (2015). The decisions of both cases expressed contradicting opinions. The latter held that the disputed Resolution was discriminatory.
The Judgement made references to Dr Ambedkar’s struggles in obtaining an education. Ambedkar’s ambition to study in a school Bombay Presidency took many by surprise. It started a revolution in the field of education for many. The introductory part of the judgement titled “Emancipation through Education” describes this. It narrates how a student’s education depends on his/her economic strength.
The Bombay HC referred to the Supreme Court judgement of State of Maharashtra v Manubhai (1995). It held that the shortage of funds could not be a reason for discrimination. In 2014, the Court questioned the State’s order of giving the benefit of fee reimbursement. This was given only to those students who took admission through CAP. The State gave financial constraints as the reason for this. It also mentioned the conditions of the policy. The Court dismissed the Government’s reply. It stated that the Government’s plea of lack of funds flies in the face of the Manubhai dictum.
The Court held that scarcity of funds should not be a reason to discriminate. It held that the Government’s policy was arbitrary and discriminatory. As a result, the Court directed the defendant to reimburse the petitioners’ education and examination fees.
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