Supreme Court Guidelines

Article 14—Reasonable classification

Air India v. Nargesh Meerza, AIR 1981 SC 1829: (1981) 4 SCC 335

1. In considering the fundamental right of equality of opportunity a technical, pedantic or doctrinaire approach should not be made and the doctrine should not be invoked even if different scales of pay, service terms, leave, etc., are introduced in different or dissimilar posts.

Thus, where the class or categories of service are essentially different in purport and spirit, article 14 cannot be attracted.

2. Article 14 forbids hostile discrimination but not reasonable classification. Thus, where persons belonging to a particular class in view of their special attributes, qualities, mode of recruitment and the like, are differently treated in public interest to advance and boost members belonging to Backward Classes, such a classification would not amount to discrimination having a close nexus with the objects sought to be achieved so that in such cases article 14 will be completely out of the way.

3. Article 14 certainly applies where equals are treated differently without any reasonable basis.

4. Where equals and unequals are treated differently, article 14 would have no application.

5. Even if there be one class of service having several categories with different attributes and incidents, such a category becomes a separate class by itself and no difference or discrimination between such category and the general members of the other class would amount to any discrimination or to denial of equality of opportunity.

6. In order to judge whether a separate category has been carved out of a class of service, the following circumstances have generally to be examined:—
(a) the nature, the mode and the manner of recruitment of a particular category from the very start.
(b) the classifications of the particular category,
(c) the terms and conditions of service of the members of the category,
(d) the nature and character of the posts and promotional avenues,
(e) the special attributes that the particular category possess which are not to be found in other classes, and the like.

It is difficult to lay down a rule of universal application but the circumstances mentioned above may be taken to be illustrative guidelines for determining the question.

Source: M A Rashid, Supreme Court Guidelines and Precedents, Universal

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