Dr Pradeep Jain and others vs Union of India and others delivered on 22 June, 1984

 


In the Supreme Court of India

Equivalent citations: 1984 AIR 1420, 1984 SCR (3) 942

Author: P Bhagwati

Bench: Bhagwati, P.N.

DATE OF JUDGMENT 22/06/1984

BENCH:

BHAGWATI, P.N. SEN, AMARENDRA NATH (J) MISRA RANGNATH

CITATION:

 1984 AIR 1420                  1984 SCR  (3) 942
 1984 SCC  (3) 655             1984 SCALE  (1)894
 
ACT:
 
Constitution of India--Art. 14 -- Equal opportunity -- Reservation of seats in medical colleges for M.B.B.S. and post-graduate 
medical courses on basis of domicile or residential qualification and institutional preference -- By State and Union Territories 
-- If valid. What should be the extent of such reservation. For admission to M.B.B.S. and Higher courses -- Merit only 
consideration -- Whether and when departure can be made.
 
Constitution of India- Art. 141- Judgment in this case applicable to all States and Union Territories except the State of 
Andhra Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir. Constitution of India- Art. 5- Only one domicile-Domicile in the territory of India 
-- To say domicile in one State or another -- Not right. Words and Phrases-'Domicile'-Concept of-Basically a legal concept.
Words and Phrases-'Merit'-What is.
 
HEADNOTE:
 
In regard to admission to M.B.B.S. and post-graduate medical courses, a somewhat uniform and consistent practice had 
grown in almost all the States and Union Territories to give preference to those candidates who had their domicile or 
permanent residence within the State for a specified number of years ranging from 3 to 20 years and to those who had 
studied in educational institutions in the State for a continuous period varying from 4 to 10 years. Sometimes the 
requirement was phrased by saying that the applicant must have his domicile in the State. The petitioners and the 
appellant who sought admission in M.B.B.S. and M.D.S. courses in different universities of different States and Union 
Territory of Delhi challenged the residential requirement and institutional preference on the ground of being violative of 
Constitution. The question which arose for consideration was whether, consistently with the constitutional values, 
admissions to a medical college or any other institution of higher learning situate in a State could be confined to those 
who had their 'domicile' within the State or who were resident within the State for a specified number of years or can 
any reservation in admissions be made for them so as to give them precedence over those who do not possess 'domicile' 
or residential qualification within the State, irrespective of merit.
 
Disposing of the writ petitions and the civil appeal. 
 
HELD:
 
(Per Bhagwati and Ranganath Misra, JJ.)
 
The entire country is taken as one nation with one citizenship and every effort of the Constitution makers is directed 
towards emphasizing, maintaining and preserving the unity and integrity of the nation. Now if India is one nation and 
there is only one citizenship, namely, citizenship of India, and every citizen has a right to move freely throughout the 
territory of India and to reside and settle in any part of India, irrespective of the place where he is born or the language 
which he speaks or the religion which he professes and he is guaranteed freedom of trade, commerce and intercourse 
throughout the territory of India and is entitled to equality before the law and equal protection of the law with other 
citizens in every part of the territory of India, it is difficult to see how a citizen having his permanent home in Tamil Nadu 
or speaking Tamil language can be regarded as an outsider in Uttar Pradesh or a citizen having his permanent home in 
Maharashtra or speaking Marathi language be regarded as an outsider in Karnataka. He must be held entitled to the same 
rights as a citizen having his permanent home in Uttar Pradesh or Karnataka, as the case may be. To regard him as an 
outsider would be to deny him his constitutional rights and to de-recognise the essential unity and integrity of the country 
by treating it as if it were a mere conglomeration of independent States. 
[954F-H; 955A-B]
 
Article 15, clauses (1) and (2) bar discrimination on grounds not only of religion, race, caste or sex but also of place of birth. 
Art. 16 (2) goes further and provides that no citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of 
birth, residence or any of them be ineligible for or discriminated against in respect of, any employment or office under the 
state. Therefore, it would appear that residential requirement would be unconstitutional as a condition of eligibility for 
employment or appointment to an office under the State which also covers an office under any local or other authority 
within the State or any corporation, such as, a public sector corporation which is an instrumentality or agency of the State.
[955H; 956A-C]
Ramana Dayaram Shetty v. International Airport Authority of India & Ors., [1979]  3 S.C.R. 1014, referred to.
 
So far as admissions to an education institution such as a medical college are concerned, Art.16 (2) has no application. 
If, therefore, there is any residence requirement for admission to a medical college in a State, it cannot be condemned 
as unconstitutional on ground of violation of Art, 16 (2). Nor can Article 15 clauses (1) and (2) be invoked for invalidating 
such residence requirement because these clauses prohibit discrimination on ground of residence and, as pointed out by 
this Court in D.P. Joshi v. State of Madhya Bharat, residence and place of birth are "two distinct conceptions with different 
connotations both in law and in fact". The only provision of the Constitution on the touch-stone of which such residence
requirement for admission to a medical college in a State can be required to be tested is Art.14 and that is precisely the 
challenge which falls to be considered in these writ petitions. [957C-E] D.P. Joshi v. State  of Madhya  Bharat, [1955] 1 
SCR 1215, referred to.
 
The word 'domicile' is to identify the personal law by which an individual is governed in respect of various matters such 
as the essential validity of a marriage, the effect of marriage on the proprietary rights of husband and wife, jurisdiction in
divorce and nullity of marriage, illegitimacy, legitimation and adoption and testamentary and intestate succession to 
moveables. [957F-G]
Halsbury's Laws of England (Fourth Edition) vol. 8, paragraph 421 & 422 and Wicker v. Homes, [1858] 7 HL Cases 124, 
referred to. 
 
Domicile is basically a legal concept for the purpose of determining what is the personal law applicable to an individual 
and even if an individual has no permanent home, he is invested with a domicile by law. There are two main classes of 
domicile: domicile of origin that is communicated by operation of law to each person at birth, that is the domicile of his 
father or his mother according as he is legitimate or illegitimate and domicile of choice which every person of full age 
is free to acquire in substitution for that which he presently possesses. The domicile of origin attaches to an individual 
by birth while the domicile of choice is acquired by residence in a territory subject to a distinctive legal system, with 
the intention to reside there permanently or indefinitely. Now the area of domicile, whether it be domicile of origin or 
domicile of choice, is the country which has the distinctive legal system and not merely the particular place in the 
country where the individual resides. [958B-E]
 
Whether there can be anything like a domicile in a state forming part of the Union of India ? The Constitution recognises 
only one domicile, namely, domicile in India. Art. 5 of the Constitution is clear and explicit on this point and it refers only 
to one domicile, namely, "domicile in the territory of India". The legal system which prevails throughout the territory of 
India is one single indivisible system. It would be absurd to suggest that the Legal system varies from State to State or 
that the legal system of a State is different from the legal system of the Union of India, merely because with respect 
to the subjects within their legislative competence, the States have power to make laws. The concept of 'domicile' has 
no relevance to the applicability of municipal laws, whether made by the Union of India or by the States. It would not, 
therefore, be right to say that a citizen of India is domiciled in one state or another, forming part of the Union of India. 
The domicile which he has is only one domicile, namely, domicile in the territory of India. When a person who is 
permanently resident in one State goes to another State with intention to reside there permanently or indefinitely, his 
domicile does not undergo any change: he does not acquire a new domicile of choice. His domicile remains the same, 
namely, Indian domicile. Moreover to think in terms of state domicile will be highly detrimental to the concept of unity 
and integrity of India.
[958H; 959A; D;F-H]
 
The argument of the State Governments that the word 'domicile' in the Rules of some of the State Governments 
prescribing domiciliary requirement for admission to medical colleges situate within their territories is used not in its 
technical legal sense but in a popular sense as meaning residence and is intended to convey the idea of intention to 
reside permanently or indefinitely, is accepted. Therefore, the Court would also interpret the word 'domicile' used in 
the Rules regulating admissions to medical colleges framed by some of the States in the same loose sense of permanent
residence and not in the technical sense in which it is used in private international law. But even so the Court wishes to 
warn against the use of the word 'domicile' with reference to States forming part of the Union of India, because it is a 
word which is likely to conjure up the notion of an independent State and encourage in a subtle and insidious manner 
the dormant sovereign impulses of different regions [959H; 960A-D]
D.P. Joshi v State of Madhya Bharat, [1955] 1 SCR 1215 and Vasundro v. State of Mysore, [1971] 
Suppl. SCR 381, referred to.
 
It is dangerous to use a legal concept for conveying a sense different from that which is ordinarily associated with it 
as a result of legal usage over the years. Therefore, it is strongly urged upon the State Government to exercise this 
wrong use of the expression 'domicile' from the rules regulating admissions to their educational Institutions and 
particularly medical colleges and to desist from introducing and maintaining domiciliary requirement as a condition 
of eligibility for such admissions. [960E-G]
 
As the position stands today, there is considerable paucity of seats in medical  colleges to satisfy the increasing demand 
of students for admission and some principle has therefore, to be evolved for making selection of students for admission 
to the medical colleges and such principle has to be in conformity with the requirement of Art.14. Now, the primary 
imperative of Art.14 is equal opportunity for all across the nation for education and advancement and that cannot be 
made dependent upon where a citizen resides. The philosophy and pragmatism of universal excellence through equality 
of opportunity for education and advancement across the nation is part of our founding faith and constitutional creed. 
The effort must, therefore, always be to select the best and most meritorious students for admission to technical 
institutions and medical colleges by providing equal opportunity to all citizens in the country and no citizen can legitimately,
without serious detriment to the unity and integrity of the nation, be regarded as an outsider in our constitutional set up. 
Moreover, it would be against national interest to admit in medical colleges or other institutions giving instruction in 
specialities, less meritorious students when more meritorious students are available, simply because the former are 
permanent residents or residents for a certain number of years in the State while the latter are not, though both categories 
are citizens of India. Exclusion of more meritorious students on the ground that they are not resident within the State 
would be likely to promote substandard candidates and bring about fall in medical competence, injurious in the long run to 
the very region.
[963G-H; 964D-H]
Jagdish Saran v Union of India, [1980] 2 SCR 831, P. Rajendran v. State of Madras.  [1968]  2  SCR  786 and Periakaruppan 
v.State of Tamil Nadu, [1971]2  SCR 430, referred to.
 
What is merit which must govern the process of selection ? It undoubtedly consists of a high degree of intelligence coupled 
with a keen and incisive mind, sound knowledge of the basic subjects and infinite capacity for hard work, but that is not 
enough; it also calls for a sense of social commitment and dedication to the cause of the poor. Merit cannot be measured 
in terms of marks alone, but human sympathies are equally important. The heart is as much a factor as the head in 
assessing the social value of a member of the medical profession. This is also an aspect which may, to the limited extent 
possible, be borne in mind while determining merit for selection of candidates for admission to medical colleges though 
concededly it would not be easy to do so, since it is a factor which is extremely difficult to judge and not easily susceptible 
to evaluation.
[967E-F; H; 968A]
Jagdish Saran v. Union of India, [1980] 2 SCR 831, referred to.
 
The scheme of admission to medical colleges may depart from the principle of selection based on merit, where it is necessary 
to do so for the purpose of bringing about real equality of opportunity between those who are unequals.
[969F]
Ahmedabad St. Xavier's College Society and Anr. v State of Gujarat. [1974]1 SCR 717 at 799 and Jagdish Saran v. Union 
of India. (1980) 2 SCR 831. referred to.
 
There are, in the application of this principle, two considerations which appear to have weighed with the Courts in justifying 
departure from the principle of selection based on merit. One is what may be called State has by and large been frowned 
upon by the court and struck down as invalid interest and the other is what may be described as a region's claim of 
backwardness. [969G]
D.P. Joshi v. State of Madhya Bharat [1955] 1 SCR 1215, referred to.
 
Though intra-state discrimination between persons resident in different districts or regions of a State as in Minor P. 
Rajendran's case and Perukaruppan's case the Court has in D.N. Chanchala's case and other similar cases upheld 
institutional reservation effected through university-wise distribution of seats for admission to medical colleges. The Court 
has also by its decision in D.P. Joshi's case and N. Vasundhara's case sustained the constitutional validity of reservation 
based on residence requirement within a State for the purpose of admission to medical colleges. These decisions which all 
relate to admission to M.B.B.S. course are binding upon the Court and it is therefore not possible for the Court to hold, in 
the face of these decisions, that residence requirement in a State for admission to M.B.B.S. course is irrational and 
irrelevant and cannot be introduced as a condition for admission without violating the mandate of equality of opportunity 
contained in Art.14. The Court is therefore of the view that a certain percentage of reservation of seats in the medical  
colleges on the basis of residence requirement may legitimately be made in order to equalize opportunities for medical 
admission on a broader basis and to bring about real and not formal, actual and not merely legal, equality. The percentage 
of reservation made on this count may also include institutional reservation for students passing the PUC or pre-medical 
examination of the same university or clearing the qualifying examination from the school system of the educational 
hinterland of the medical colleges in the State and for this purpose, there should be no distinction between schools 
affiliated to State Board and schools affiliated to the Central Board  of Secondary Education. 
[979C-F; 981D-F]
P. Rajendran  v. State of Madras, [1968]2 SCR 786, Periakaruppan v. State of Tamil Nadu, [1971] 2 SCR 430, D.N. 
Chanchala v. State of Mysore, [1971] Supp. SCR  608, D.P. Joshi v. State of Madhya Bharat, [1955] 1 SCR 1215, 
Vasundra v. State of Mysore, [1971] Suppl. SCR 381, Ahmedabad St. Xavier's College Society and Anr. v. State of 
Gujarat, [1974] 1 SCC 717 at 799 and State of Uttar Pradesh v. P. Tandon, [1975] 2 SCR 761, referred to.
 
What should be the extent of reservation based on residence requirement and institutional preference ?
 
Wholesale reservation made by some of the State Governments on the basis of 'domicile' or residence requirement within 
the State or on the basis of institutional preference for students who have passed the qualifying examination held  by the 
university or the State excluding all students not satisfying this requirement, regardless of merit, must be condemned, 
and are unconstitutional and void as being in violation of Art. 14 of the Constitution. [982G; 983E-F]
Jagdish Saran v. Union of India [1980] 2 SCR 831, referred to.
 
It is not possible to provide a categorical answer to this question for, as pointed out by the policy statement of the 
Government of India, the extent of such reservation would depend on several factors including opportunities for professional 
education in that particular area, the extent of competition, level of educational development of the area and other 
relevant factors. But the Court is of the opinion that such reservation should, in no event, exceed the outer limit of 70 per 
cent of the total number of open seats after taking into account other kinds of reservations validly made. The Medical 
Education Review Committee has suggested that the outer limit should not exceed 75 per cent but in the opinion of the 
Court it would be fair and just to fix the outer limit at 70 per cent.  This outer limit of reservation is being laid down in an 
attempt to reconcile the apparently conflicting claim of equality and excellence.
 
It may be made clear that this outer limit fixed by the Court will be subject to any reduction or attenuation which may be 
made by the Indian Medical Council which is the statutory body of medical practitioners whose functional obligations include 
setting standards for medical education and providing for its regulation and coordination. This outer limit fixed by the Court 
must gradually, over the years, be progressively reduced but that is a task which would have to be performed by the  
Indian Medical Council. The Indian Medical Council is directed  to consider within a period of nine months from today 
whether the outer limit of 70 per cent fixed by the  Court needs to be reduced and if the Indian Medical Council determines 
a shorter outer limit, it will be binding on the States and the Union Territories. The Indian Medical Council is also directed to 
subject the outer limit so fixed to reconsideration at the end of every three years but in no event should the outer limit 
exceed 70 per cent fixed by the Court. The result is that in any event at least 30 per cent of the open seats shall be 
available for admission of students on all India basis irrespective of the State or university from which they come and such 
admissions shall be granted purely on merit on the basis of either all India Entrance Examinations or entrance examination 
to be held by the State. Of course, it need not be added that even where reservation on the basis of residence requirement 
or institutional preference is made in accordance with the directions given in this judgment, admissions from the source or 
sources indicated by such reservation shall be based only on merit, because the object must be to select the best and 
most meritorious students from within such source or sources. [983G-H; 984A-H; 985A-B]
 
But different considerations must prevail while considering the question of reservation based on residence requirement 
within the State or on institutional preference for admission to the post-graduate courses, such as, M.S., M.D. and the 
like. There excellence cannot be allowed to be compromised by any other considerations because that would be 
deterimental to the interest of the nation. Therefore so far as admissions to post graduate courses, such as M.S., M.D. 
and the like are concerned, it would be eminently desirable not to provide for any reservation  based on residence 
requirement within the State or on institutional preference. But having regard to broader considerations of equality of 
opportunity and institutional continuity in education which has its own importance and value, it is directed that though 
residence requirement within the State shall not be ground for reservation in admissions to post-graduate courses, a 
certain percentage of seats may in the present circumstances, be reserved on the basis of institutional preference in 
the sense that a student who has passed M.B.B.S. course from a medical college or university may be given preference 
for admission to the post-graduate course in the same medical college or university but such reservation on the basis 
of institutional preference should not, in any event, exceed 50 per cent of the total number of open seats available 
for admission to the post-graduate course. This outer limit which is being fixed will also be subject to revision on the 
lower side by the Indian Medical Council in the same manner as in the case of admissions to the M.B.B.S. course. But 
even in regard to admissions to the post-graduate course, it is directed that so far as super-specialities such as 
neuro-surgery and cardiology are concerned, there should be no reservation at all even on the basis of institutional 
preference  and admissions should be granted purely on merit on all India basis. [985C-D; 987F-H; 988 A-B]
 
What has been said in regard to admissions to the M.B.B.S. and post graduate courses must apply equally in relation 
to admissions to the B.D.S. and M.D.S. courses. So far as admissions to the B.D.S. and M.D.S. courses are 
concerned, it will be the Indian Dental Council which is the statutory body of dental practitioners, which will have 
to carry out the directions given to the Indian Medical Council in regard to admissions to  M.B.B.S. and post-graduate 
courses. The directions given to the Indian Medical Council may, therefore, be read as applicable mutatis mutands 
to the Indian Dental Council so far as admissions to B.D.S. and M.D.S. courses are concerned. [988C-E]
 
In the instant case, the provisional admissions given to the petitioners shall not be disturbed but they shall be treated 
as final admissions. [988H]
 
(Per Bhagwati, Amarendra Nath Sen and Ranganath Misra, JJ.)
The judgment shall be implemented with effect from the next academic year 1985-86. Whatever admissions, provisional 
or otherwise, have been made for the academic year 1984-85, shall not be disturbed on the basis of the judgment. 
The judgement will not apply to the State of Andhra Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir because there were special 
Constitutional provisions in regard to them which would need independent consideration by this Court. [991G-H; 992A]
 
(Per Amarendra Nath Sen, J.)
I agree with the orders passed by my learned brother Bhagwati J. and also the directions given by him. [989A]
 
The question of constitutional validity of reservation of seats within reasonable limits on the basis of residence and 
also the question of institutionalised reservation of seats clearly appear to be concluded by various decision of this 
Court, as has been rightly pointed out by my learned brother in his judgement in which he has referred at length to 
these decisions. These decisions are binding on this Court and are to be followed. Constitutional validity of such 
reservations within the reasonable limit must, therefore, be upheld. [989H; 990A-B]
 
The real question is the question of the extent of the limit to which such reservations may be considered to be 
reasonable. The question of reasonableness of such reservations must necessarily be determined with reference to 
the facts and circumstances of particular cases and with reference to the situation prevailing at  any given time. 
[990C]
 
On the question of admission to post-graduate medical courses, I must confess, that I have some misgivings in my 
mind as to the further classification made on the footings of super-specialities. Both my learned brothers, however, 
agree on this. Also in a broader perspective this classification may serve the interests of the nation better, though 
interests of individual States to a small extent may be effected. This distinction in case of super-specialities proceeds 
on the basis that in these very important spheres the criterion for selection should be merit only without any 
institutionalised reservations or any reservation on the ground of residence. I also agree that the orders and 
directions proposed in regard to admission to M.B.B.S. and post-graduate courses are also to be read as applicable 
mutatis mutandis in relation to admission to B.D.S. and M.D.S. courses, [990E-G]
 
JUDGMENT:
 
CIVIL APPELLATE/ORIGINAL JURISDICTION: Writ Petition Nos. 6091, 8882-83, 9219, 9820 of 1983 and 10658, 
10761 of 1983 & CMP. No. 29116/83 (in WP. No. 9618/83) (Under article 32 of the Constitution of India) With Civil 
Appeal No. 6392 of 1983 Appeal by Special leave from the Judgment and Order dated the 17th August, 1983 of 
the Delhi High Court in C.W.P. No. 1791 of 1983. 
 
V.M. Tarkunde, A.K. Srivastava, S.K. Jain and Vijay Hansaria, for the petitioners. 
R. Venkataramani for the Appellant in CA. 6392/83. A.K. Ganguli, S.K. Baga & N.S. Das Bahl for the Respondents 
in CA. No. 6392 of 1983. 
P.P. Rao and A.K. Ganguli for the Delhi University. S.N. Chaudhary for the Respondents (State of Assam) K.G. Bhagat, 
Addl. Sol. General, Miss A. Subhashini & R.N. Poddar for the Respondent-Union of India. 
Kapil Sibal and Mrs. Shobha Dixit for the Respondent- State of U.P. 
D.P. Mukherjee and G.S. Chatterjee for the Respondent- State of West Bengal.
G.S. Narayana, Ashivini Kumar, C.V. Subba Rao, Swaraj Kaushal & Mr. M. Veerappa, for the Respondent-State of 
Karanataka. 
K. Parasaran and B. Parthasarthi for the Respondent- States of Andhra Pradesh. 
Yogeshwar Prasad and Mrs. Rani Chhabra for the Respondent. 
P.K. Pillai, for the Respondent-State of Kerala. P.N. Nag, for the State of H.P. 
P.R. Mridul, and R.K. Mehta for the State of Orissa. Altaf Ahmed for the State of J & K.
 
The following Judgments were delivered by BHAGWATI, J.
 
This group of Writ Petitions raises a question of great national importance affecting admissions to medical colleges, 
both at the under-graduate and at the post-graduate levels. The question is, whether, consistently with the 
constitutional values, admissions to a medical college or any other institution of higher learning situate in a State 
can be confined to those who have their 'domicile' within the State or who are resident within the State for a 
specified number of years or can any reservation in admissions be made for them so as to give them precedence 
over those who do not possess 'domicile' or residential qualification within the State, irrespective of merit. This 
question has assumed considerable significance in the present day context, because we find that today the integrity 
of the nation is threatened by the divisive forces of regionalism, linguism and communalism and regional linguistic and 
communal loyalties are gaining ascendancy in national life and seeking to tear apart and destroy national integrity. 
We tend to forget that India is one nation and we are all Indians first and Indians last. It is time we remind ourselves 
what the great visionary and builder of modern India, Jawaharlal Nehru said, "Who dies if India lives : who lives if India 
dies ?" We must realise, and this is unfortunately that many in public life tend to overlook, sometimes out of ignorance 
of the forces of history and sometimes deliberately with a view to promoting their self-interest, that national interest 
must inevitably and for ever prevail over any other considerations proceeding from regional, linguistic or communal 
attachments. If only we keep these basic considerations uppermost in our minds and follow the sure path indicated by 
the founding fathers of the Constitution, we do not think the question arising in this group of writ petitions should 
present any difficulty of solution. 
 
The history of India over the past centuries bears witness to the fact that India was, at no time, a single political 
unit. Even during the reign of the Maurya dynasty, though a large part of the country was under the sovereignty of 
the Mauryan kings, there were considerable portions of the territory which were under the rule of independent kingdoms. 
So also during the Moghul rule which extended over large parts of the territory of India, there were independent rulers 
who enjoyed political sovereignty over the territories of their respective kingdoms. It is an interesting fact of history 
that India was forged into a nation, neither on account of a common language nor on account of the continued 
existence of a single political regime over its territories, but on account of a common culture evolved over the centuries. 
It is cultural unity something more fundamental and enduring than any other bond, which may unite the people of a 
country together-which has welded this country into a nation. But, until the advent of the British rule, it was not 
constituted into a single political unit. There were throughout the period of history for which we have fairly authenticated 
account, various kingdoms and principalities which were occasionally engaged in conflict with one another. During the 
British rule, India became a compact political unit having one single political regime over its entire territories and this led 
to the evolution of the concept of a nation. This concept of one nation took firm roots in the minds and hearts of the 
people during the struggle for independence under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. He has rightly been called the 
Father of the Nation because it was he who awakened in the people of this country a sense of national consciousness 
and instilled in them a high sense of patriotism without which it is not possible to build a country into nationhood. By 
the time the Constitution of India came to be enacted, insurgent India, breaking a new path of nonviolent revolution 
and fighting to free itself from the shackles of foreign domination, had emerged into nationhood and "the people of 
India" were inspired by a new enthusiasm, a high noble spirit of sacrifice and above all, a strong sense of nationalism 
and in the Constitution which they framed, they set about the task of a strong nation based on certain cherished 
values for which they had fought. 
 
The Preamble of the Constitution was therefore, framed with great care and deliberation so that it reflects the high 
purpose and noble objective of the Constitution makers. The Preamble declares in highly emotive words pregnant 
with meaning and significance: 
 
"We, the People of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic 
Republic and to secure to all its citizens: 
 
Justice, social, economic and political; 
Liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; 
Equality of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all 
Fraternity assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation;
 
In our Constituent Assembly this twenty-sixth day of November, 1949, do Hereby Adopt, Enact And Give To 
Ourselves This Constitution."
 
These words embody the hopes and aspirations of the people and capture and reproduce the social, economic and 
political philosophy underlying the Constitution and running through the warp and woof of its entire fabric. It is 
significant to note that the Preamble emphasises that the people who have given to themselves this glorious document 
are the people of India, the people of this great nation called India and it gives expression to the resolve of the people 
of India to constitute India into a sovereign socialist secular democratic republic and to promote among all its citizens 
fraternity assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the nation. The Constitution makers were 
aware of the past history of the country and they were also conscious that the divisive forces of regionalism, linguism 
and communalism may one day raise their ugly head and threaten the unity and integrity of the nation, particularly in 
the context of the partition of India and the ever present danger of the imperialist forces adopting new stratagems, 
apparently innocuous, but calculated to destabilise India and re-establish their hegemony and, therefore, they laid great 
emphasis on the unity and integrity of the nation in the very Preamble of the Constitution. Article 1 of the Constitution 
then proceeds to declare that India shall be a Union of States but emphasizes that though a Union of States, it is still 
one nation with one citizenship. Part II dealing with citizenship recognises only Indian citizenship: it does not recognise 
citizenship of any State forming part of the Union. Then follow Articles 14 and 15 which are intended to strike against 
discrimination and arbitrariness in state action, whether legislatives or administrative. They read as follows:
 
"Article 14: The State shall not deny to any persons equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within 
the territory of India." 
 
"Article 15: (1) The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place 
of birth of any of them. 
 
(2) No citizen shall on grounds only of religion, race, caste. sex, place of birth or any of them, be subject to any 
disability, liability, restriction or condition with regard to - 
(a) access to shops, public restaurants, hotels and places of public entertainment; or
(b) the use of wells, tanks, bathing ghats, roads and places or public resort maintained wholly or partly out of State 
funds or dedicated to the use of the general public. 
 
(3) Nothing in this article or in clause (2) of article 29 shall prevent the State from making any special provision for the 
advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and the 
Scheduled Tribes."
 
Article 19 (1) again recognises the essential unity and integrity of the nation and reinforces the concept of one nation 
by providing in clauses (d) and (e) that every citizen shall have the right to move freely throughout the territory of India 
and to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India. Article 301 declares that subject to the other provisions of 
Part XIII, trade, commerce and intercourse throughout the territory of India shall be free. Then there are situations 
envisaged in certain Articles of the Constitution such as Articles 353 and 356 where the executive power of a State 
forming part of the Union is exercisable by the Central Government or subject to the directions of the Central Government. 
Thus, the entire country is taken as one nation with one citizenship and every effort of the Constitution makers is directed 
towards emphasizing, maintaining and preserving the unity and integrity of the nation. Now if India is one nation and there 
is only one citizenship, namely, citizenship of India, and every citizen has a right to move freely throughout the territory of 
India and to reside and settle in any part of India, irrespective of the place where he is born or the language which he 
speaks or the religion which he professes and he is guaranteed freedom of trade, commerce and intercourse throughout 
the territory of India and is entitled to equality before the law and equal protection of the law with other citizens in every 
part of the territory of India, it is difficult to see how a citizen having his permanent home in Tamil Nadu or speaking Tamil 
language can be regarded as an outsider in Uttar Pradesh or a citizen having his permanent home in Maharashtra or 
speaking Marathi language be regarded as an outsider in Karnataka. He must be held entitled to the same rights as a citizen 
having his permanent home in Uttar Pradesh or Karnataka, as the case may be. To regard him as an outsider would be to 
deny him his constitutional rights and to derecognise the essential unity and integrity of the country by treating it as if 
it were a mere conglomeration of independent states. 
 
But, unfortunately, we find that in the last few years, owing to the emergence of narrow parochial loyalties fostered by 
interested parties with a view to gaining advantage for themselves, a serious threat has developed to the unity and 
integrity of the nation and the very concept of India as a nation is in peril. The threat is obtrusive at some places while 
at others it is still silent and is masquerading under the guise of apparently innocuous and rather attractive clap-trap. 
The reason is that when the Constitution came into operation, we took the spirit of nation-hood for granted and paid 
little attention to nourish it, unmindful of the fact that it was a hard-won concept. We allowed `sons of the soil' demands 
to develop claiming special treatment on the basis of residence in the concerned State, because recognising and conceding 
such demands had a populist appeal. The result is that `sons of the soil' claims, though not altogether illegitimate if 
confined within reasonable bounds, are breaking asunder the unity and integrity of the nation by fostering and strengthening 
narrow parochial loyalties based on language and residence within a state. Today unfortunately, a citizen who has his 
permanent residence in a state entertains the feeling that he must have a preferential claim to be appointed to an office 
or post in the state or to be admitted to an educational institution within the state vis-a-vis citizen who has his permanent 
residence in another state, because the latter is an outsider and must yield place to a citizen who is a permanent resident 
of the state, irrespective of merit. This, in our opinion, is a dangerous feeling which, if allowed to grow, indiscriminately, 
might one day break up the country into fragments, though, as we shall presently point out, the principle of equality 
of opportunity for education and advancement itself may justify, within reasonable limits, a preferential policy based 
on residence.
 
We may point out at this stage that though Article 15 (2) clauses (1) and (2) bar discrimination on grounds not only of 
religion, race, caste or sex but also of place of birth, Article 16 (2) goes further and provides that no citizen shall on 
grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, residence or any of them be ineligible for or discriminated 
against in state employment. So far as employment under the state, or any local or other authority is concerned, no 
citizen can be given preference nor can any discrimination be practised against him on the ground only of residence. 
It would thus appear that residential requirement would be unconstitutional as a condition of eligibility for employment or 
appointment to an office under the State and having regard to the expansive meaning given to the word `State' in 
Ramana Dayaram Shetty v. International Airport Authority of India & Ors., it is obvious that this constitutional prohibition 
would also cover an office under any local or other authority within the State or any corporation, such as a public sector 
corporation which is an instrumentality or agency of the State. But Article 16 (3) provides an exception to this rule by laying 
down that Parliament may make a law "prescribing, in regard to a class or classes of employment or appointment to an office 
under the government of, or any local or other authority, in a state or union territory, any requirement as to residence 
within that state or union territory prior to such employment or appointment." Parliament alone is given the right to enact 
an exception to the ban on discrimination based on residence and that too only with respect to positions within the 
employment of a State Government. But even so, without any parliamentary enactment permitting them to do so, many of 
the State Governments have been pursuing policies of localism since long and these policies are now quite widespread. 
Parliament has, in fact, exercised little control over these policies in States. The only action which Parliament has taken 
under Article 16 (3) giving it the right to set residence requirements has been the enactment of the Public Employment 
(Requirement as to Residence) Act, 1957 aimed at abolishing all existing residence requirements in the States and enacting 
exceptions only in the case of the special instances of Andhra Pradesh, Manipur, Tripura and Himchal Pradesh. There is, 
therefore, at present no parliamentary enactment permitting preferential policies based on residence requirement except 
in the case of Andhra Pradesh, Manipur, Tripura and Himachal Pradesh where the Central Government has been given 
the right to issue directions setting residence requirements in the subordinate services. Yet, in the face of Article 16 (2), 
some of the States are adopting `sons of the soil' policies prescribing reservation or preference based on domicile or 
residence requirement for employment or appointment to an office under the government of a State or any local or other 
authority or public sector corporation or any other corporation which is an instrumentality or agency of the State. 
Prima facie this would seem to be constitutionally impermissible though we do not wish to express any definite opinion 
upon it, since it does not directly arise for consideration in these writ petitions and civil appeal. 
 
But, it is clear that so far as admissions to an educational institution such as a medical college are concerned, 
Article 16 (2) has no application. If, therefore, there is any residence requirement for admission to a medical college in 
a State, it cannot be condemned as unconstitutional on ground of violation of Article 15 clauses (1) and (2). Nor can 
Article 16 (2) be invoked for invalidating such residence requirement because these clauses prohibit discrimination on 
ground of place of birth and not on ground of residence and, as pointed out by this Court in D.P. Joshi v. State of Madhya 
Bharat, residence and place of birth are "two distinct conceptions with different connotations both in law and in fact". 
The only provision of the Constitution on the touch-stone of which such residence requirement can be required to be 
tested is Article 14 and that is precisely the challenge which falls to be considered by us in these writ petitions.
 
Now, there are in our country in almost all States residence requirements for admission to a medical college. Sometimes 
the requirement is phrased by saying that the applicant must have his domicile in the State. We must protest against 
the use of the word `domicile' in relation to a State within the union of India. The word `domicile' is to identify the 
personal law by which an individual is governed in respect of various matters such as the essential validity of a marriage, 
the effect of marriage on the proprietary rights of husband and wife, jurisdiction in divorce and nullity of marriage, 
illegitimacy, legitimation and adoption and testamentary and intestate succession to moveables. `Domicile' as pointed 
out in Halsbury's Laws of England (Fourth Edition) Volume 8 paragraph 421, "is the legal relationship between an 
individual and a territory with a distinctive legal system which invokes that system as his personal law." 
(Emphasis supplied.) It is well settled that the domicile of a person is in that country in which he either has or is deemed 
by law to have his permanent home. "By domicile" said Lord Cranworth in Wicker v. Homes we mean home, the 
permanent home.' The notion which lies at the root of the concept of domicile is that of permanent home." But it is 
basically a legal concept for the purpose of determining what is the personal law applicable to an individual and even if 
an individual has no permanent home, he is invested with a domicile by law. There are two main classes of domicile: 
domicile of origin that is communicated by operation of law to each person at birth, that is the domicile of his father 
or his mother according as he is legitimate or illegitimate and domicile of choice which every person of full age is free 
to acquire in substitution for that which he presently possesses. The domicile of origin attaches to an individual by 
birth while the domicile of choice is acquired by residence in a territory subject to a distinctive legal system, with 
the intention to reside there permanently or indefinitely. Now the area of domicile, whether it be domicile of origin or 
domicile of choice, is the country which has the distinctive legal system and not merely the particular place in the 
country where the individual resides. This position is brought out clearly and emphatically in paragraph 422 of 
Halsbury's Laws of England (Fourth Edition) Volume 8 where it is stated: "Each person who has, or whom the law 
deems to have, his permanent home within the territorial limits of a single system of law is domiciled in the country 
over which the system extends; and he is domiciled in the whole of that country even though his home may be fixed 
at a particular spot within it." What would be the position under a federal polity is also set out in the same paragraph 
of volume 8 of Halsbury's Laws of England (Fourth Edition): "In federal states some branches of law are within the 
competence of the federal authorities and for these purposes the whole federation will be subject to a single system 
of law and an individual may be spoken of as domiciled in the federation as a whole; other branches of law are within 
the competence of the states or provinces of the federation and the individual will be domiciled in one state or 
province only." This being the true legal position in regard to domicile, let us proceed to consider whether there can 
be anything like a domicile in a state forming part of the Union of India. 
 
Now it is clear on a reading of the Constitution that it recognises only one domicile namely, domicile in India. Article 5 
of the Constitution is clear and explicit on this point and it refers only to one domicile, namely, "domicile in the 
territory of India." Moreover, it must be remembered that India is not a federal state in the traditional sense of that 
term. It is not a compact of sovereign states which have come together to form a federation by ceding a part of 
their sovereignty to the federal states. It has undoubtedly certain federal features but it is still not a federal state 
and it has only one citizenship, namely, the citizenship of India. It has also one single unified legal system which 
extends throughout the country. It is not possible to say that a distinct and separate system of law prevails in 
each State forming part of the Union of India. The legal system which prevails through-out the territory of India is 
one single indivisible system with a single unified justicing system having the Supreme Court of India at the apex of 
the hierarchy, which lays down the law for the entire country. It is true that with respect to subjects set out in 
List II of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution, the States have the power to make laws and subject to the 
over-riding power of Parliament, the States can also make laws with respect to subjects enumerated in List III of 
the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution, but the legal system under the rubric of which such laws are made by 
the States is a single legal system which may truly be described as the Indian Legal system. It would be absurd 
to suggest that the legal system varies from State to State or that the legal system of a State is different from 
the legal system of the Union of India; merely because with respect to the subjects within their legislative 
competence, the States have power to make laws. The concept of `domicile' has no relevance to the applicability 
of municipal laws, whether made by the Union of India or by the States. It would not, therefore, in our opinion 
be right to say that a citizen of India is domiciled in one state or another forming part of the Union of India. 
The domicile which he has is only one domicile, namely, domicile in the territory of India. When a person who is 
permanently resident in one State goes to another State with intention to reside there permanently or indefinitely, 
his domicile does not undergo any change: he does not acquire a new domicile of choice. His domicile remains 
the same, namely, Indian domicile. We think it highly detrimental to the concept of unity and integrity of India 
to think in terms of State domicile. It is true and there we agree with the argument advanced on behalf of the 
State Governments, that the word `domicile' in the Rules of some of the State Governments prescribing domiciliary 
requirement for admission to medical colleges situate within their territories, is used not in its technical legal 
sense but in a popular sense as meaning residence and is intended to convey the idea of intention to reside 
permanently or indefinitely. That is, in fact the sense in which the word 'domicile' was understood by a five Judge 
Bench of this Court in D. P. Joshi's case (supra) while construing a Rule prescribing capitation fee for admission 
to a medical college in the State of Madhya Bharat and it was in the same sense that word 'domicile' was 
understood in Rule 3 of the Selection Rules made by the State of Mysore in Vasundra v. State of Mysore. 
We would also, therefore, interpret the word 'domicile' used in the Rules regulating admissions to medical colleges 
framed by some of the States in the same loose sense of permanent residence and not in the technical sense in 
which it is used in private international law. But even so we wish to warn against the use of the word 'domicile' 
with reference to States forming part of the Union of India, because it is a word which is likely to conjure up the 
notion of an independent State and encourage in a subtle and insidious manner the dormant sovereign impulses 
of different regions. We think it is dangerous to use a legal concept for conveying a sense different from that 
which is ordinarily associated with it as a result of legal usage over the years. When we use a word which has 
come to represent a concept or idea, for conveying a different concept or idea it is easy for the mind to slide 
into an assumption that the verbal identity is accompanied in all its sequences by identity of meaning. The 
concept of domicile if used for a purpose other than its legitimate purpose may give rise to lethal radiations 
which may in the long run tend to break up the unity and integrity of the country. We would, therefore, strongly 
urge upon the State Governments to exercise this wrong use of the expression 'domicile' from the rules 
regulating admissions to their educational institutions and particularly medical colleges and to desist from 
introducing and maintaining domiciliary requirement as a condition of eligibility for such admissions. 
 
We may now proceed to consider whether residential requirement or institutional preference in admissions to 
technical and medical colleges can be regarded as constitutionally permissible. Can it stand the test of Article 14 
or does it fall foul of it and must be struck down as constitutionally invalid. It is not possible to answer this 
question by a simple "yes" or "no." It raises a delicate but complex problem involving consideration of diverse 
factors in the light of varying social and economic facts and calls for a balanced and harmonious adjustment of 
competing interests. But, before we embark upon a consideration of this question, it may be pointed out that there 
is before us one Civil Appeal, namely, C.A. No. 6392 of 1983 filed by Rita Nirankari and five writ petitions, namely, 
Writ Petition Nos. 8882 of 1983, 8883 of 1983, 9618 of 1981, 10658 of 1983 and 10761 of 1983 filled by Nitin 
Aggarwal, Seema Garg, Menakshi, Alka Aggarwal and Shalini Shailendra Kumar respectively. These civil appeal and 
writ petitions relate to admissions to medical colleges affiliated to the Delhi University and situate in the Union 
Territory of Delhi. Then we have writ petition No. 982 of 1983 filed by Dr. Mrs. Reena Ranjit Kumar and writ petition 
No. 9219 of 1983 filed by Nandini Daftary which relate to admission to the M.D.S. course and M.B.B.S. course 
respectively of Karnataka University. We have also writ petition No. 6091 of 1983 filed by Dr. Pradeep Jain seeking 
admission to the M.D.S. course in King George Medical College, Lucknow affiliated to the Lucknow University. When 
these writ petitions and civil appeal were admitted, we made interim orders in some of them granting provisional 
admission to the petitioners and we may make it clear that wherever we have granted provisional admissions they 
shall not be disturbed, irrespective of the result of these civil appeal and writ petitions. We may also point out that 
since these civil appeals and writ petitions challenged the constitutional validity of residential requirement and 
institutional preference in regard to admissions in medical colleges in the States of Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh and 
the Union Territory of Delhi and we were informed that it is the uniform and consistent practice in almost all States 
to provide for such residential requirement or institutional preference we directed that notices of these civil appeal 
and writ petitions may be issued to the Union of India and the States of Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, 
Maharashtra, Manipur, Orissa, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal and the State Governments to which 
such notices are issued shall file their counter affidavits dealing, in particular, with the question of reservation in 
admission on the basis of domicile or residential requirement within two weeks from the date of service of such notices. 
Some of the State Governments could not file their counter affidavits within the time granted by us and they 
accordingly made an application for extension of time and by an order dated 30th August, 1983 we extended the 
time for filing of counter affidavits and directed the State Governments to set out in their counter affidavits facts 
and figures showing as to what is the procedure which is being followed by them so far as admissions to medical 
colleges in their States are concerned. It appears that most of the state Governments to whom notices were issued 
filed their counter affidavits and though no notice was directed to be issued to the State of Himachal Pradesh, the 
Government of that State also filed a counter affidavit. The Delhi University in its counter affidavit gave a brief synopsis 
summarising the domicile or residential requirement or institutional preference followed by each State Government for 
admission to the medical colleges situate within its territory. It is not necessary for the purpose of the present judgement 
to reproduce in detail the precise domicile or residential requirement or institutional preference adopted and prevailing in 
different States in regard to admissions to medical colleges. Suffice it to state that for admission to M.B.B.S. course, 
domicile or permanent residence is required in some States, residence for a specified number of years ranging from three 
to twenty years is required in some other States while in a few States the requirement is that the candidate should have 
studied in an educational institution in the State for a continuous period varying from four to ten years or the candidate 
should be a bona fide resident of one State and in case of admissions to M.D.S. course in Uttar Pradesh the candidate 
should be either a citizen of India, domicile of whose father is in Uttar Pradesh and who himself is domiciled in Uttar 
Pradesh or a citizen of India, domicile of whose father may not be in Uttar Pradesh but who himself has resided in Uttar 
Pradesh for not less than five years at the time of making the application and so far as admissions to M.D.S. Course in 
Karnataka are concerned, the candidate should have studied for at least five years in an educational institution in the 
State of Karnataka prior to his joining B.D.S. course. The position in regard to admissions in medical colleges in the Union 
Territory of Delhi is a little different, because there, out of a total of 410 seats available for admission to the M.B.B.S. 
course in the three medical colleges affiliated to the Delhi University, 148 are reserved seats and 262 are non-reserved 
seats and for filling in the 262 non-reserved seats, an entrance examination is held and the first 50 seats are filled from 
amongst the eligible candidates who pass the entrance examination in order of merit and the remaining 212 seats are 
filled, again on merit, but by candidates who have passed their qualifying examination from the schools situate in the 
Union Territory of Delhi only. It will thus be seen that in almost all States and Union Territories admissions to medical 
colleges are based either on residence requirements or on institutional preferences. The question is whether such 
reservations or preferences are constitutionally valid when tested on the touch-stone of Article 14. 
 
There can be no doubt that the demand for admission to medical colleges has over the last two decades increased 
enormously and outstripped the availability of seats in the medical colleges in the country. Today large numbers of 
young men and women are clamouring to get admission in the medical colleges not only because they can find gainful 
employment for themselves but they can also serve the people and the available seats in the medical colleges are not 
sufficient to meet the increasing demand. The proportion of medical practitioners to the population is very low 
compared to some other countries and there is considerable unmet need for medical services. It is possible that in 
highly urbanised areas, there may be a surfeit of doctors but there are large tracts of rural areas throughout the 
country where competent and adequate medical services are not available. The reason partly is that the doctors who 
have been brought up and educated in urban areas or who are trained in medical colleges situate in cities and big 
towns acquire an indelible urban slant and prefer not to go to the rural areas, but more importantly, proper and 
adequate facilities are not provided and quite often even necessary medicines and drugs are not supplied in rural 
areas with the result that the doctors, even if otherwise inclined to go to rural areas with a view to serving the 
people, find that they cannot be of any service to the people and this acts as a disincentive against doctors 
setting down in rural areas. What is, therefore, necessary is to set up proper and adequate structures in rural 
areas where competent medical services can be provided by the doctors and some motivation must be provided 
to the doctors servicing those areas. But, as the position stands today, there is considerable paucity of seats in 
medical colleges to satisfy the increasing demand of students for admission and some principle has, therefore, to be 
evolved for making selection of students for admission to the medical colleges and such principle has to be in 
conformity with the requirement of Article 14. Now, the primary imperative of Article 14 is equal opportunity for 
all across the nation for education and advancement and, as pointed out by Krishna Iyer, J. in Jagdish Saran v. 
Union of India, "this has burning relevance to our times when the country is gradually being broken up into 
fragments by narrow domestic walls" by surrender to narrow parochial loyalties. What is fundamental, as an 
enduring value of our polity is guarantee to each of equal opportunity to unfold the full potential of his personality. 
Anyone anywhere, humble or high, agrestic or urban, man or woman, whatever be his language or religion, place 
of birth or residence, is entitled to be afforded equal chance for admission to any secular educational course for 
cultural growth, training facility, speciality or employment. It would run counter to the basic principle of equality 
before the law and equal protection of the law if a citizen, by reason of his residence in State A, which ordinarily 
in the commonality of cases, would be the result of his birth in a place situate within that State, should have 
opportunity for education or advancement which is denied to another citizen because he happens to be resident 
in State B. It is axiomatic that talent is not the monopoly of the resident of any particular State; it is more or 
less evenly distributed and given proper opportunity and environment, every one has a prospect of rising to the 
peak. What is necessary is equality of opportunity and that cannot be made dependent upon where a citizen 
resides. If every citizen is afforded equal opportunity, genetically and environmentally, to develop his potential 
he will be able, in his own way, to manifest his faculties fully leading to all round improvement in excellence. 
The philosophy and pragmatism of universal excellence through equality of opportunity for education and 
advancement across the nation is part of our founding faith and constitutional creed. The effort must, therefore, 
always be to select the best and most meritorious students for admission to technical institutions and medical 
colleges by providing equal opportunity to all citizen in the country and no citizen can legitimately, without 
serious detriment to the unity and integrity of the nation, be regarded as an outsider in our constitutional set 
up. Moreover it would be against national interest to admit in medical colleges or other institutions giving instruction 
in specialities, less meritorious students when more meritorious students are available, simply because the former 
are permanent residents or residents for a certain number of years in the State while the latter are not, though 
both categories are citizens of India. Exclusion of more meritorious students on the ground that they are not 
resident within the State would be likely to promote sub-standard candidates and bring about fall in medical 
competence, injurious in the long run to the very region. "It is no blessing to inflict quacks and medical midgets 
on people by whole-sale sacrifice of talent at the thresh-hold. Nor can the very best be rejected from admission 
because that will be a national loss and the interests of no region can be higher than those of the nation." 
The primary consideration in selection of candidates for admission to the medical colleges must, therefore, 
be merit. The object of any rules which may be made for regulating admissions to the medical colleges must 
be to secure the best and most meritorious students. 
 
This was the consideration which weighed with the Court in Minor P. Rajendran v. State of Madras in striking 
down a rule made by the State of Madras allocating seats in medical colleges on district-wise basis. Wanchoo, 
C.J. Speaking on behalf of the Court, observed: 
 
"The question whether district-wise allocation is violative of Art. 14 will depend on what is the object to be achieved 
in the matter of admission to medical colleges. Considering the fact that there is a large number of candidates 
than seats available, selection has got to be made. The object of selection can only be to secure the best 
possible material for admission to colleges subject to the provision for socially and educationally backward classes. 
Further whether selection is from the socially and educationally backward classes or from the general pool, 
the object of selection must be to secure the best possible talent from the two sources. If that is the object, 
it must necessarily follow that object would be defeated if seats are allocated district by district. It cannot 
be and has not been denied that the object of selection is to secure the best possible talent from the two 
sources so that the country may have the best possible doctors. If that is the object, that argument on behalf of 
the petitioners appellant is that object cannot possibly be served by allocating seats district-wise. It is true that 
Art. 14 does not forbid classification, but the classification has to be justified on the basis of the nexus between 
the classification and the object to be achieved, even assuming that territorial classification may be a reasonable 
classification. The fact, however, that the classification by itself is reasonable is not enough to support it unless 
there is nexus between the classification and the object to be achieved. Therefore, as the object to be achieved 
in a case of the kind with which we are concerned is to get the best talent for admission to professional colleges, 
the allocation of seats district-wise has no reasonable relation with the object to be achieved. If anything such 
allocation will result in many cases in the object being destroyed, and if that is so, the classification, even if 
reasonable, would result in discrimination, in as much as better qualified candidates from one district may be 
rejected while less qualified candidates from other districts may be admitted from either of the two sources." 
 
Then again in Periakaruppan v. State of Tamil Nadu, the same consideration prevailed with the Court in striking down 
the scheme of selection of candidates for admission to medical colleges in the State of Tamil Nadu for the year 1970-71. 
It was a unit-wise scheme under which the medical colleges in the city of Madras were constituted as one unit and 
each of the other medical colleges in the Mofussil was constituted as a unit and a separate selection committee was 
set up for each of these units. The intending applicants were asked to apply to any one of the committees but were 
advised to apply to the committee nearest to their place of residence and if they applied to more than one committee, 
their applications were to be forwarded by the Government to only one of the committees. The petitioners who were 
unsuccessful in getting admission, challenged the validity of this unit-wise scheme and contended that the unit-wise 
scheme infringed Article 14 of the Constitution, inter alia, because the applicants of some of the units were in a better 
position than those who applied to other units, since the ratio between the applicants and the number of seats in 
each unit varied and several applicants who secured lesser marks than the petitioners were selected merely because 
their applications came to be considered in other units. This challenge was upheld by the Court and Hegde, J. speaking 
on behalf of the Court observed: 
 
"We shall first take up the plea regarding the division of medical seats on unit-wise basis. It is admitted that 
minimum marks required for being selected in some unit is less than in the other units. Hence prima facie the scheme 
in question results in discrimination against some of the applicants. Before a classification can be justified, it must 
be based on an objective criteria and further it must have reasonable nexus with the object intended to be achieved. 
The object intended to be achieved in the present case is to select the best candidates for being admitted to Medical 
Colleges. That object cannot be satisfactorily achieved by the method adopted." 
 
These two decisions do not bear directly on the question raised before us, namely, whether any reservation can be 
legitimately made in admissions to medical colleges on the basis of residence requirement within the State or any 
institutional preference can be given to students who have passed the qualifying examination held by the same 
university. They deal with two specific instances of intra-state discrimination between citizens residing within the same 
State and strike down such discrimination as violative of Article 14 on the ground that it has no rational relation to the 
object of selection, namely, to get the best and most meritorious students and, in fact, tends to defeat such object. 
But, in taking this view, they clearly and categorically proceed on the basis of the principle that the object of any valid 
scheme of admissions must be to "select the best candidates for being admitted to medical colleges" and that if any 
departure is to be made "from the principle of selection on the basis of merit" it must be justified on the touchstone of 
Art. 14. 
 
But let us understand what we mean when we say that selection for admission to medical colleges must be based on 
merit. What is merit which must govern the process of selection? It undoubtedly consists of a high degree of intelligence,
coupled with a keen and incisive mind, sound knowledge of the basic subjects and infinite capacity for hard work, but 
that is not enough; it also calls for a sense of social commitment and dedication to the cause of the poor. We agree 
with Krishna Iyer, J. when he says in Jagdish Saran's case (supra): "If potential for rural service or aptitude for rendering 
medical attention among backward people is a criterion of merit -- and it undoubtedly is in a land of sickness and misery, 
neglect and penury, wails and tears -- then, surely, belonging to a university catering to a deprived region is a plus point 
of merit. Excellence is composite and the heart and its sensitivity are as precious in the case of educational values as the 
head and its creativity and social medicine for the common people is more relevant than peak performance in freak cases." 
Merit cannot be measured in terms of marks alone, but human sympathies are equally important. The heart is as much a 
factor as the head in assessing the social value of a member of the medical profession. This is also an aspect which may, 
to the limited extent possible, be borne in mind while determining merit for selection of candidates for admission to medical 
colleges though concededly it would not be easy to do so, since it is a factor which is extremely difficult to judge and not 
easily susceptible to evaluation. 
 
We may now proceed to consider what are the circumstances in which departure may justifiably be made from the 
principle of selection based on merit. Obviously, such departure can be justified only on equality-oriented grounds, 
for whatever be the principle of selection followed for making admissions to medical colleges, it must satisfy the 
test of equality. Now, the concept of equality under the Constitution is a dynamic concept. It takes within its 
sweep every process of equalisation and protective discrimination. Equality must not remain mere idle incantation 
but it must become a living reality for the large masses of people. In a hierarchical society with an indelible feudal 
stamp and incurable actual inequality, it is absurd to suggest that progressive measures to eliminate group 
disabilities and promote collective equality are antagonistic to equality on the ground the every individual is 
entitled to equality of opportunity based purely on merit judged by the marks obtained by him. We cannot 
countenance such a suggestion, for to do so would make that equality clause sterile and perpetuate existing 
inequalities. Equality of opportunity is not simply a matter of legal equality. Its existence depends not merely 
on the absence of disabilities but on the presence of abilities. Where, therefore, there is inequality, in fact, 
legal equality always tends to accentuate it. What the famous poet William Blake said graphically is very true, 
namely, "One law for the Lion and the Ox is oppression." Those who are unequal, in fact, cannot be treated 
by identical standards; that may be equality in law but it would certainly not be real equality. It is, therefore, 
necessary to take into account de facto inequalities which exist in the society and to take affirmative action 
by way of giving preference to the socially and economically disadvantaged persons or inflicting handicaps on 
those more advantageously placed, in order to bring about real equality. Such affirmative action though 
apparently discriminatory is calculated to produce equality on a broader basis by eliminating de facto inequalities 
and placing the weaker sections of the community on a footing of equality with the stronger and more powerful 
section, so that each member of the community, whatever is his births, occupation or social position may enjoy 
equal opportunity of using to the full his natural endowments of physique, of character and of intelligence. We 
may in this connection usefully quote what Mathew, J. said in Ahmedabad St Xavier's College Society & Anr. v. 
State of Gujarat.
 
"It is obvious that "equality in law precludes discrimination of any kind; whereas equality, in fact, may involve the 
necessity of differential treatment in order to attain a result which establishes an equilibrium between different 
situations." 
 
We cannot therefore have arid equality which does not take into account the social and economic disabilities and 
inequalities from which large masses of people suffer in the country. Equality in law must produce real equality; 
de jure equality must ultimately find its raison d'etre in de facto equality. The State must, therefore, resort to 
compensatory State action for the purpose of making people who are factually unequal in their wealth, education 
or social environment, equal in specified areas. The State must, to use again the words of Krishna Iyer. J. in 
Jagdish Saran's case (supra), weave those special facilities into the web of equality which, in an equitable 
setting, provide for the weak and promote their levelling up so that, in the long run, the community at large 
may enjoy a general measure of real equal opportunity. Equality is not negated or neglected where special 
provisions are geared to the large goal of the disabled getting over their disablement consistently with the 
general good and individual merit." The scheme of admission to medical colleges may, therefore, depart from 
the principle of selection based on merit, where it is necessary to do so for the purpose of bringing about 
real equality of opportunity between those who are unequal. 
 
There are, in the application of this principle, two considerations which appear to have weighed with the Court in 
justifying departure from the principle of selection based on merit. One is, what may be called, State interest 
and the other is what may be described as a region's claim of backwardness. The legitimacy of claim of State 
interest was recognised explicitly in one of the early decisions of this Court in D.P. Joshi's case (supra). The Rule 
impugned in this case was a Rule made by the State of Madhya Bharat for admission to the Mahatma Gandhi 
Memorial Medical College, Indore providing that no capitation fee should be charged for students who are bona 
fide residents of Madhya Bharat but for other non-Madhya Bharat students, there should be a capitation fee 
of Rs. 1300 for nominees and Rs. 1500 for others. The expression bona fide resident' was defined for the 
purpose of this Rule to mean inter alia a citizen whose original domicile was in Madhya Bharat provided he had 
not acquired a domicile elsewhere or a citizen whose original domicile was not in Madhya Bharat but who had 
acquired a domicile in Madhya Bharat and had resided there for not less than five years at the date of the 
application for admission. The constitutional validity of this Rule was challenged on the ground that it discriminated 
between students who were bona fide residents of Madhya Bharat and students who were not and since this 
discrimination was based on residence in the State of Madhya Bharat, it was violative of Article 14 of the 
Constitution. The Court by a majority of four against one held that the Rule was not discriminatory as being in 
contravention of Article 14, because the classification between students who were bona fide residents of 
Madhya Bharat and those who were not was based on an intelligible differentia having rational relation to 
the object of the Rule. Venkatarama Ayyar, J. speaking on behalf of the majority observed: 
 
"The object of the classification underlying the impugned rule was clearly to help to some extent students who are 
residents of Madhya Bharat in the prosecution of their studies, and it cannot be disputed that it is quite a legitimate 
and laudable objective for a State to encourage education within its borders. Education is a State subject, 
and one of the directive principles declared in Part IV of the Constitution is that the State should make effective 
provisions for education within the limits of its economy. (Vide Article 41). The State has to contribute for the 
upkeep and the running of its educational institutions. We are in this petition concerned with a Medical College, 
and it is well known that it requires considerable finance to maintain such an institution. If the State has to spend 
money on it, is it unreasonable that it should so order the educational system that the advantage of it would, to 
some extent at least, ensure for the benefit of the State ? A concession given to the residents of the State in 
the matter of fees is obviously calculated to serve that end, as presumably some of them might, after passing 
out of the College, settle down as doctors and serve the needs of the locality. The classification is thus based 
on a ground which has a reasonable relation to the subject-matter of the legislation, and is in consequence not 
open to attack. It has been held in the State of Punjab v. Ajab Singh and Anr. that a classification might validly 
be made on a geographical basis. Such a classification would be eminently just and reasonable, where it relates 
to education which is the concern, primarily of the State. The contention, therefore, that the rule imposing 
capitation fee is in contravention of Article 14 must be rejected." (emphasis supplied) 
 
It may be noted that here discrimination was based on residence within the State of Madhya Bharat and yet it was held 
justified on the ground that the object of the State in making the Rules was to encourage students who were residents 
of Madhya Bharat to take up the medical course so that "some of them might, after passing out from the college, settle 
down as doctors and serve the needs of the locality" and the classification made by the Rule had rational relation to 
this object. This justification of the discrimination based on residence obviously rest on the assumption that those who 
were bona fide residents of Madhya Bharat would, after becoming doctors, settle down and serve the needs of the 
people in the State. We are not sure whether any facts were pleaded in the affidavits justifying this assumption but 
the judgment of Venkatarama Ayyar, J. shows that the decision of the majority Judges proceeded on this assumption 
and that was regarded as a valid ground justifying the discrimination made by the impugned Rule. 
 
We may point out that in Minor P. Rajendran's case (supra) also, an argument was put forward on behalf of the State 
Government that if selection was made district-wise, those selected from a district were likely to settle down as 
practitioners in that districts so that the districts were likely to benefit from their training. But this argument was 
rejected by the Court and district-wise admission to medical colleges was struck down as constitutionally invalid. 
It is significant to note that the Court did not reject this argument as intrinsically irrelevant but the only ground 
on which it was rejected was that "it was neither pleaded in the counter affidavit of the State nor had the State 
placed any facts or figures justifying the plea that students selected district-wise would settle down as medical 
practitioners in the respective district where they resided". It would be interesting to speculate what court 
would have decided if the State Government had placed sufficient material before the court showing that students 
coming from different districts in the State ordinarily settle down as medical practitioners in the respective districts 
from where they come. 
 
This Court also upheld reservation based on residence requirement for a period of not less than ten years, for admission to 
medical colleges in the then State of Mysore, in the subsequent decision in N. Vsaundhara's case (supra). The Rule which 
was impugned in that case was Rule 3 of the Rules for selection of candidates for admission to the professional course 
leading to MBBS course in the Government Medical Colleges in the then State of Mysore and this Rule provided that "no 
person who is not a citizen of India and who is not domiciled and resident in the State of Mysore for not less than ten 
years at any time prior to the date of the application for a seat, shall be eligible to apply." The petitioner's application 
for admission was rejected on the ground that she had not resided in the State for a period of ten years as required by 
Rule 3 and she consequently challenged the constitutional validity of that Rule on the plea that it violated the right to 
equality guaranteed by Article 14. The challenge was however negatived and the constitutional validity of Rule 3 was 
upheld by a 3 Judge Bench of this Court. The Court relied upon the decision in D.P. Joshi's case (supra) and observed: 
 
"If classification based on residence does not impinge upon the principle of equality enshrined in Art. 14 as held by this 
Court in the decision already cited which is binding upon us, then the further condition of the residence in the State 
being there for at least ten years would also seem to be equally valid unless it is shown by the petitioner that selection 
of the period of ten years makes the classification so unreasonable as to render it arbitrary and without any substantial 
basis or intelligible differentia. The object of framing the impugned rule seems to be to attempt to impart medical 
education to the best talent available out of the class of persons who are likely, so far as it can reasonably be 
foreseen, to serve as doctors, the inhabitants of the State of Mysore. It is true that it is not possible to say with 
absolute certainty that all those admitted to the medical colleges would necessarily stay in Mysore State after qualifying 
as doctors: they have indeed a fundamental right as citizens to settle anywhere in India and they are also free, if they 
so desire and can manage, to go out of India for further studies or even otherwise. But these possibilities are permissible 
and inherent in our constitutional set-up and these considerations cannot adversely affect the constitutionality of the 
otherwise valid rule. The problem as noticed in minor P. Rajendran's case and as revealed by a large number of cases 
which have recently come to this Court is that the number of candidates desirous of having medical education is very 
much larger than the number of seats available in medical colleges. The need and demand for doctors in our country 
is so great that young boys and girls feel that in medical profession they can both get gainful employment and serve 
the people. The State has, therefore, to formulate with reasonable foresight a just scheme of classification for 
imparting medical education to the available candidates which would serve the object and purpose of providing broad 
based medical aid to the people of the State and to provide medical education to those who are best suited for such 
education. Proper classification inspired by this consideration and selection on merit from such classified groups, 
therefore, cannot be challenged on the ground of inequality violating Art. 14. The impugned rule has not been shown 
by the petitioner to suffer from the vice of unreasonableness. The counter-affidavit filed by the State on the other 
hand discloses the purpose to be that of serving the interests of the residents of the State by providing medical 
aid for them."
 
Here also reservation based on residence requirement of not less than ten years was held to be non-discriminatory 
though it denied equality of opportunity for admission to the medical colleges in the State to all those who did not 
satisfy this residence requirement. The Court took the view that the object of the State Government in making such 
reservation, based on residence requirement of not less than ten years, was to "impart medical education to the 
best talent available out of the class of persons who are likely, so far as it can reasonably be foreseen, to serve as 
doctors, the inhabitants of the State". The principle of selection based on merit across the board was thus allowed 
to be modified by the claim of State interest in providing broad based medical aid to the people of the State" and 
reservation based on residence requirement of not less than ten years was upheld as a valid reservation. We find 
a choice of the same reasoning in the following words from the judgement of Dua, J. in D.N. Chanchala v. State 
of Mysore. 
 
"the object of selection for admission to the medical colleges considered in the background of the Directive 
Principles of State Policy contained in our Constitution, appears to be to select the best material from amongst 
the candidates in order not only to provide them with adequate means of livelihood but also to provide the much 
needed medical aid to the people and to improve public health generally" (Emphasis supplied) 
 
The claim of State interest in providing adequate medical service to the people of the State by imparting medical 
education to students who, by reason of their residence in the State, would be likely to settle down and serve 
the people of the State as doctors has thus been regarded by the Court as a legitimate ground for laying down 
residence requirement for admission to medical colleges in the State.
 
We may also conveniently at this stage refer to the decision of this Court in D.N. Chanchala's case (supra). The 
reservation impugned in this case was university-wise reservation under which preference for admission to a 
medical college run by a university was given to students who had passed the PUC examination of that university 
and only 20 per cent of the seats were available to those passing the PUC Examination of other universities. The 
petitioner who had passed PUC examination held by the Bangalore university, applied for admission to any one of 
the medical colleges affiliated to the Karnataka University. But she did not come within the merit list on the basis 
of which 20 per cent of the open seats were filled up and since she had not passed the PUC Examination held by 
the Karnataka University, her application for admission to a medical college affiliated to the Karnataka University 
was rejected. She therefore filed a writ petition under Article 32 of the Constitution contending, inter alia, that 
the University-wise distribution of seats was discriminatory and being without any rational basis was violative of 
Article 14. This contention was however rejected by a 3 Judge Bench of this Court. Shelet, J. speaking on behalf 
of the Court held that there was no constitutional infirmity involved in giving preference to students who had 
passed the PUC Examination of the same University and gave the following reasons in support of this 
conclusion: 
 
"The three universities were set up in three different places presumably for the purpose of catering to the 
educational and academic needs of those areas. Obviously one university for the whole of the State could neither 
have been adequate nor feasible to satisfy those needs. Since it would not be possible to admit all candidates in 
the medical colleges run by the Government, some basis for screening the candidates had to be set up. There 
can be no manner of doubt, and it is now fairly well settled, that the Government, as also other private agencies, 
who found such centres for medical training, have the right to frame rules for admission so long as those rules are 
not inconsistent with the university statutes and regulations and do not suffer from infirmities, constitutional or 
otherwise. Since the Universities are set up for satisfying-the educational needs of different areas where they are 
set up and medical colleges are established in those areas, it can safely be presumed that they also were so set 
up to satisfy the needs for medical training of those attached to those universities. In our view, there is nothing 
undesirable in ensuring that those attached to such universities have their ambitions to have training in specialised 
subjects, like medicine, satisfied through colleges affiliated to their own universities. Such a basis for selection has 
not the disadvantage of district-wise or unit-wise selection as any student from any part of the State can pass 
the qualifying examination in any of the three universities irrespective of the place of his birth or residence. Further, 
the rules confer a discretion on the selection committee to admit outsiders upto 20% of the total available seats in 
any one of these colleges, i.e., those who have passed the equivalent examination held by any other university not 
only in the State but also elsewhere in India. It is, therefore, impossible to say that the basis of selection adopted 
in these rules would defeat the object of the rules as was said in Rajendran's case or make possible less meritorious 
students obtaining admission at the cost of the better candidates. The fact that a candidate having lesser marks 
might obtain admission at the cost of another having higher marks from another university does not necessarily mean 
that a less meritorious candidate gets advantage over a more meritorious one. As is well known, different universities 
have different standards in the examinations held by them. A preference to one attached to one university in its 
own institutions for postgraduate or technical training is not uncommon. Rules giving such a preference are to be 
found in various universities. Such a system for that reason alone is not to be condemned as discriminatory, 
particularly when admission to such a university by passing a qualifying examination held by it is not precluded by any 
restrictive qualifications, such as birth or residence, or any other similar restrictions. In our view, it is not possible 
to equate the present basis for selection with these which were held invalid in the aforesaid two decisions. Further, 
the Government which bears the financial burden of running the Government colleges is entitled to lay down criteria 
for admission, provided of course such classification is not arbitrary and has a rational basis and a reasonable 
connection with the object of the rules. So long as there is no discrimination within each of such sources, the validity 
of the rules laying down such sources cannot be successfully challenged. In our view, the rules lay down a valid 
classification. Candidates passing through the qualifying examination held by a university form a class by themselves 
as distinguished from those passing through such examination from the other two universities. Such a classification 
has a reasonable nexus with the object of the rules, namely, to cater to the needs of candidates who would 
naturally look to their own university to advance their training in technical studies, such as medical studies. 
In our opinion, the rules cannot justly be attacked on the ground of hostile discrimination or as being otherwise 
in breach of Article 14." 
 
University-wise distribution of seats was thus upheld by the Court as constitutionally valid even though it was not 
in conformity with the principle of selection based on merit and marked a departure from it. The view taken by the 
court was that university-wise distribution of seats was not discriminatory because it was based on a rational principle. 
There was nothing unreasonable in providing that in granting admissions to medical colleges affiliated to a university, 
reservation shall be made in favour of candidates who have passed PUC examination of that university, firstly, 
because it would be quite legitimate for students who are attached to a university to entertain a desire to "have 
training in specialised subjects, like medicine, satisfied through colleges affiliated to their own" university since that 
promote institutional continuity which has its own value and secondly, because any student from any part of the 
country could pass the qualifying examination of that university, irrespective, of the place of his birth or residence. 
 
The second consideration which has legitimately weighed with the courts in diluting the principle of selection based 
on merit is the claim of backwardness made on behalf of any particular region. There have been cases where students 
residing in a backward region have been given preferential treatment in admissions to medical colleges and such 
preferential treatment has been upheld on the ground that though apparently discriminatory against others, it is 
intended to correct the imbalance or handicap from which the students from the backward region are suffering and 
thus bring about real equality in the larger sense. Such preferential treatment for those residing in the backward region 
is designed to produce equal opportunity on a broader basis by providing to neglected geographical or human areas 
an opportunity to rise which they would not have if no preferential treatment is given to them and they are treated 
on the same basis as others for admissions to medical colleges, because then they would never be able to compete 
with others more advantageously placed. If creatively and imaginatively applied, preferential treatment based on 
residence in a backward region can play a significant role in reducing uneven levels of development and such preferential 
treatment would presumably satisfy the test of Article 14, because it would be calculated to redress the existing 
imbalance between different regions in the State. There may be a case where a region is educationally backward or 
woefully deficient in medical services and in such a case there would be serious educational and health service disparity 
for that backward region which must be redressed by an equality and service minded welfare State. The purpose of 
such a policy would be to remove the existing inequality and to promote welfare based equality for the residents of 
the backward region. If the State in such a case seeks to remove the absence of opportunity for medical education 
and to provide competent and adequate medical services in such backward region by starting a medical college in the 
heart of such backward region and reserves a high percentage of seats there to students from that region, it may 
not be possible to castigate such reservation or preferential treatment as discriminatory. What is directly intended 
to abolish existing disparity cannot be accused of discrimination. Krishna Iyer, J. said to the same effect when he 
observed in Jagdish Saran's case at page 856 of the Report: 
 
"We have no doubt that where the human region from which the alumni of an institution are largely drawn is backward, 
either from the angle of opportunities for technical education or availability of medical services for the people, the 
provision of a high ratio of reservation hardly militates against the equality mandate-viewed in the perspective of 
social justice."
 
This was precisely the ground on which, in the State of Uttar Pradesh v. P. Tandon this Court allowed reservation in 
medical admissions for people of the hill and Uttarakhand areas of the State of U.P. on the ground that those areas 
were socially and educationally backward. Similarly, the Andhra Pradesh High Court in Devi v. Kakatie Medical College, 
held that preferential treatment of Telangana students in medical admissions was justified since "Kakatiya Medical 
College was started for the spread of medical education mainly for Telangana region. which is educationally backward 
in the State. If in view of this object, provision is made to cater to the educational needs mainly of that particular region, 
as it badly requires such assistance, it cannot be said that the object to be achieved has on relation to the classification 
made by giving larger representation to the Andhra region. The increase in the Telangana quota is consistent with and 
promotes and advances the object underlying the establishment of the institution." 
 
We are however not concerned here with a case of reservation or preference for persons from a backward region within 
a State and we need not therefore dwell any longer upon it. 
 
It will be noticed from the above discussion that though intra-state discrimination between persons resident in different 
districts or regions of a State has, by an large, been frowned upon by the court and struck down as invalid as in 
Minor P. Rajendran's case (supra) and Perukaruppan's case (supra), the Court has in D.N. Chanchalla's case and other 
similar cases up-held institutional reservation effected through university-wise distribution of seats for admission to 
medical colleges. The Court has also by its decisions in D.P. Joshi's case and N. Vasundhara's case (supra) sustained 
the constitutional validity of reservation based on residence within a State for the purpose of admission to medical 
college. These decisions which all relate to admission to MBBS course are binding upon us and it is therefore not possible 
for us to hold, in the face of these decisions, that residence requirement in a State for admission to MBBS course is 
irrational and irrelevant and cannot be introduced as a condition for admission without violating the mandate of equality 
of opportunity contained in Article 14. We must proceed on the basis that at least so far as admission to MBBS course 
is concerned, residence requirement in a State can be introduced as a condition for admission to the MBBS course. It 
is of course true that the Medical Education Review Committee established by the Government of India has in its report 
recommended after taking into account all relevant considerations, that the "final objective should be to ensure that 
all admissions to the MBBS course should be open to candidates on an All India basis without the imposition of existing 
domiciliary condition," but having regard to the practical difficulties of transition to the stage where admissions to MBBS 
course in all medical colleges would be on All India Basis, the medical Education Review Committee has suggested "that 
to begin with not less than 25 per cent seats in each institution may be open to candidates on all India basis." We are 
not all sure whether at the present stage it would be consistent with the mandate of equality in its broader dynamic 
sense to provide that admissions to the MBBS course in all medical colleges in the country should be on all India basis. 
Theoretically, of course, if admissions are given on the basis of all India national entrance examination, each individual 
would have equal opportunity of securing admission, but that would not take into account diverse consideration, such 
as, differing level of social, economic and educational development of different regions, disparity in the number of seats 
available for admission to the MBBS course in different States, difficulties which may be experienced by students from 
one region who might in the competition on all India basis get admission to the MBBS course in another region far remote 
from their own and other allied factors. There can be no doubt that the policy of ensuring admissions to the MBBS course 
on all India basis is a highly desirable policy, based as it is on the postulate that India is one nation and every citizen of 
India is entitled to have equal opportunity for education and advancement, but it is an ideal to be aimed at and it may 
not be realistically possible in the present circumstances, to adopt it, for it cannot produce real equality of opportunity 
unless there is complete absence of disparities and inequalities a situation which simply does not exist in the country 
today. There are massive social and economic disparities and inequalities not only between the States and States but 
also between region and region within a state and even between citizens and citizens within the same region. There is 
a yawning gap between the rich and the poor and there are so many disabilities and injustices from which the poor suffer 
as a class that they cannot avail themselves of any opportunities which may in law be open to them. They do not have 
the social and material resources to take advantage of these opportunities which remain merely on paper recognised by 
law but non-existent in fact. 
 
Students from backward States or regions will hardly be able to compete with those from advanced States or regions 
because, though possessing an intelligent mind, they would have had no adequate opportunities for development so 
as to be in a position to compete with others. So also students belonging to the weaker sections who have not, 
by reason of their socially or economically disadvantaged position, been able to secure education in good schools 
would be at a disadvantage compared to students belonging to the affluent or well-to-do families who have had the 
best of school education and in open All India competition, they would be likely to be worsted. There would also be 
a number of students who, if they do not get admission in a medical college near their residence and are assigned 
admission in a far off college in another State as a result of open All India competition, may not be able to go to 
such other college on account of lack of resources and facilities and in the result, they would be effectively 
deprived of a real opportunity for pursing the medical course even though on paper they would have got admission 
in a medical college. It would be tantamount to telling these students that they are given an opportunity of taking 
up the medical course, but if they cannot afford it by reason of the medical college to which they are admitted 
being far away in another State, it is their bad luck: the State cannot help it, because the State has done all that 
it could, namely, provide equal opportunity to all for medical education. But the question is whether the opportunity 
provided is real or illusory? We are therefore of the view that a certain percentage of reservation on the basis of 
residence requirement may legitimately be made in order to equalise opportunities for medical admission on a broader 
basis and to bring about real and not formal, actual and not merely legal, equality. The percentage of reservation 
made on this count may also include institutional reservation for students passing the PUC or pre-medical examination 
of the same university or clearing the qualifying examination from the school system of the educational hinterland of 
the medical colleges in the State and for this purpose, there should be no distinction between schools affiliated to 
State Board and schools affiliated to the Central Board of Secondary Education. It would be constitutionally permissible 
to provide, as an interim measure until we reach the stage when we can consistently with the broad mandate of the 
rule of equality in the larger sense; ensure admissions to the M.B.B.S, course on the basis of national entrance 
examination, an ideal which we must increasingly strive to reach for reservation of a certain percentage of seats in 
the medical colleges for students satisfying a prescribed residence requirement as also for students who have passed 
P.U.C. or pre-medical examination or any other qualifying examination held by the university or the State and for this 
purpose it should make no difference whether the qualifying examination is conducted by the State Board or by the 
Central Board of Secondary Education, because no discrimination can be made between schools affiliated to the 
Central Board of Secondary Education. We may point out that at the close of the arguments we asked the learned 
Attorney General to inform the court as to what was the stand of the Government of India in the matter of such 
reservation and the learned Attorney General in response to the inquiry made by the Court filed a policy statement 
which contained the following formulation of the policy of the Government of India: 
 
"Central Government is generally opposed to the principle of reservation based on domicile or residence for admission 
to institution of higher education, whether professional or otherwise. In view of the territorially articulated nature 
of the system of institutions of higher learning including institutions of professional education, there is no objection, 
however, to stipulating reservation or preference for a reasonable quantum in under-graduate courses for students 
hailing from the school system of educational hinterland of the institutions. For this purpose, there should be no 
distinction between schools affiliated to CBSE."
 
We are glad to find that the policy of the Government of India in the matter of reservation based on residence 
requirement and institutional preference accords with the view taken by us in that behalf. We may point out that 
even if at some stage it is decided to regulate admissions to the M.B.B.S. course on the basis of All India Entrance 
Examination, some provision would have to be made for allocation of seats amongst the selected candidates on the 
basis of residence or institutional affiliation so as to take into account the aforementioned factors. 
 
The only question which remains to be considered is as to what should be the extent of reservation based on 
residence requirement and institutional preference. There can be no doubt that such reservation cannot completely 
exclude admission of students from other universities and States on the basis of merit judged in open competition. 
Krishna lyer, J. rightly remarked in Jagdish Saran's case (supra) at page 845 and 846 of the Report: 
 
"Reservation must be kept in check by the demands of competence. You cannot extend the shelter of reservation 
where minimum qualifications are absent. Similarly, all the best talent cannot be completely excluded by wholesale 
reservation. So a certain percentage which may be available, must be kept open for meritorious performance 
regardless of university, State and the like. Complete exclusion of the rest of the country for the sake of a province, 
wholesale banishment of proven ability to open up, hopefully, some dalit talent, total sacrifice of excellence at the 
alter of equalisation when the Constitution mandates for every one equality before and equal protection of the law 
may be fatal folly, self-defeating educational technology and anti-national if made a routine rule of State policy. 
A fair preference, a reasonable reservation, a just adjustment of the prior needs and real potential of the weak with 
the partial recognition of the presence of competitive merit - such is the dynamics of social justice which animates 
the three egalitarian articles of the Constitution." 
 
We agree wholly with these observations made by the learned Judge and we unreservedly condemn wholesale 
reservation made by some of the State Governments on the basis of 'domicile' or residence requirement within the 
State or on the basis of institutional preference for students who have passed the qualifying examination held by 
the university or the State, excluding all students not satisfying this requirement, regardless of merit. We declare 
such wholesale reservation to be unconstitutional and void as being in violation of Article 14 of the Constitution. 
 
But, then to what extent can reservation based on residence requirement within the State or on institutional 
preference for students passing the qualifying examination held by the university or the state be regarded as 
constitutionally permissible? It is not possible to provide a categorical answer to this question for, as pointed out
by the policy statement of Government of India, the extent of such reservation would depend on several factors 
including opportunities for professional education in that particular area, the extent of competition, level of 
educational development of the area and other relevant factors. It may be that in a State were the level of 
educational development is woefully low, there are comparatively inadequate opportunities for training in the 
medical speciality and there is large scale social and economic backwardness, there may be justification for 
reservation of a higher percentage of seats in the medical colleges in the State and such higher percentage may 
not militate against "the equality mandate viewed in the perspective of social justice". So many variables 
depending on social and economic facts in the context of educational opportunities would enter into the 
determination of the question as to what in the case of any particular State, should be the limit of reservation 
based on residence requirement within the State or on institutional preference. But, in our opinion, such 
reservation should, in no event, exceed the outer limit of 70 per cent of the total number of open seats after 
taking into account other kinds of reservations validly made. The Medical Education Review Committee has 
suggested that the outer limit should not exceed 75 per cent but we are the view that it would be fair and just 
to fix the outer limit at 70 per cent. We are laying down this outer limit of reservation in an attempt to 
reconcile the apparently conflicting claims of equality and excellence. We may make it clear that this outer limit 
fixed by us will be subject to any reduction or attenuation which may be made by the Indian Medical Council 
which is the statutory body of medical practitioners whose functional obligations include setting standards for 
medical education and providing for its regulation and coordination. We are of the opinion that this outer limit 
fixed by us must gradually, over the years, be progressively reduced but that is a task which would have to be 
performed by the Indian Medical Council. We would direct the Indian Medical Council to consider within a period 
of nine months from today whether the outer limit of 70 per cent fixed by us needs to be reduced and if the 
Indian Medical Council determines a shorter outer limit, it will be binding on the States and the Union Territories. 
We would also direct the Indian Medical Council to subject the outer limit, so fixed, to reconsideration at the 
end of every three years but in no event should the outer limit exceed 70 per cent fixed by us. The result is 
that in any event at least 30 per cent of the open seats shall be available for admission of students on all 
India basis irrespective of the State or university from which they come and such admissions shall be granted 
purely on merit on the basis of either all India Entrance Exam. or entrance examination to be held by the State. 
Of course, we need not add that even where reservation on the basis of residence requirement or institutional 
preference is made in accordance with the directions given in this judgment, admissions from the source or 
sources indicated by such reservation shall be based only on merit, because the object must be to select the 
best and most meritorious student from within such source or sources. 
 
So much for admission to the M.B.B.S. course, but different considerations must prevail when we come to consider 
the question of reservation based on residence requirement within the State or on institutional preference for 
admission to post graduate courses, such as, M.D., M.S. and the like. There we cannot allow excellence to be 
compromised by any other considerations because that would be detrimental to the interest of the nation. It was 
rightly pointed out by Krishna Iyer, J. in Jagdish Saran's case, and we wholly endorse what he has said: 
 
"The basic medical needs of a region or the preferential push justified for a handicapped group cannot prevail in the 
same measure at the highest scale of speciality. Here the best skill or talent, must be handpicked by selecting 
according to capability. At the level of Ph. D., M.D., or levels of higher proficiency, where international measure of 
talent is made, where losing one great scientist or technologist in the making is a national loss the considerations 
we have expended upon as important loss their potency. Here equality, measured by matching excellence, has 
more meaning and cannot be diluted much without grave risk." "If equality of opportunity for every person in the 
country is the constitutional guarantee, a candidate who gets more marks then another is entitled to preference 
for admission. Merit must be the test when choosing the best, according to this rule of equal chance for equal 
marks. This proposition has greater importance when we reach the higher levels of education like post-graduate 
courses. After all, top technological expertise in any vital field like medicine is a nation's human asset without which 
its advance and development will be stunted. The role of high grade skill or special talent may be less at the lesser 
levels of education, jobs no disciplines of social inconsequence, but more at the higher levels of sophisticated skills 
and strategic employment. To devalue merit at the summit is to temporise with the country's development in the 
vital areas of professional expertise. In science and technology and other specialised fields of developmental 
significance, to relax lazily or easily in regard to exacting standards of performance may be running a grave national 
risk because in advanced medicine and other critical departments of higher knowledge, crucial to material progress, 
the people of India should not be denied the best the nation's talent lying latent can produce. If the best potential 
in these fields is cold-shouldered for populist considerations garbed as reservations, the victims, in the long run, 
may be the people themselves. Of course, this unrelenting strictness in selecting the best may not be so imperative 
at other levels where a broad measure of efficiency may be good enough and what is needed is merely to weed 
out the worthless." 
 
"Secondly, and more importantly, it is difficult to denounce or renounce the merit criterion when the selection is for 
post graduate or post doctoral courses in specialised subjects. There is no substitute for sheer flair, for creative 
talent, for fine-tune performance at the difficult highest level of some disciplines where the best alone is likely to 
blossom as the best. To sympathise mawkishly with the weaker sections by selecting substandard candidates, is to 
punish society as a whole by denying the prospect of excellence, say in hospital service. Even the poorest, when 
stricken by critical illness, needs the attention of super-skilled specialists, not humdrum second-rates. So it is that 
relaxation on merit, by over ruling equality and quality all together, is a social risk where the stage is post graduate 
or post-doctoral." 
 
These passages from the judgment of Krishna Iyer, J. clearly and forcibly express the same view which we have 
independently reached on our own and indeed that view has been so ably expressed in these passages that we do 
not think we can usefully add anything to what has already been said there. We may point out that the Indian Medical 
Council has also emphasized that playing with merit, so far as admissions to post graduate courses are concerned, 
for pampering local feeling, will boomerang. We may, with advantage, reproduce the recommendation of the Indian 
Medical Council on this point which may not be the last word in social wisdom but is certainly worthy of consideration:
 
"Student for post-graduate training should be selected strictly on merit, judged on the basis of academic record in 
the undergraduate course. All selection for post-graduate studies should be conducted by the Universities." 
 
The Medical Education Review Committee has also expressed the opinion that "all admissions to the post-graduate 
courses in any institution should be open to candidates on an all India basis and there should be no restriction regarding 
domicile in the State/UT in which the institution is located." So also in the policy statement filed by the leaned Attorney 
General, the Government of India has categorically expressed the view that: 
 
"So far as admissions to the institutions of post-graduate colleges and special professional colleges is concerned, it 
should be entirely on the basis of all India merit subject to constitutional reservations in favour of Scheduled Castes 
and Scheduled Tribes." 
 
We are, therefore, of the view that so far as admissions to post-graduate courses, such as M.S., M.D. and the like are 
concerned, it would be eminently desirable not to provide for any reservation based on residence requirement within 
the State or on institutional preference. But, having regard to border considerations of equality of opportunity and 
institutional continuity in education, which has its own importance and value, we would direct that though residence 
requirement within the State shall not be a ground for reservation in admissions to post graduate courses, a certain 
percentage of seats may, in the present circumstances, be reserved on the basis of institutional preference in the sense 
that a student who has passed M.B.B.S. course from a medical college or university may be given preference for admission 
to the post-graduate course in the same medical colleges or university but such reservation on the basis of institutional 
preference should not in any event exceed 50 per cent of the total number of open seats available for admission to the 
post-graduate course. This outer limit which we are fixing will also be subject to revision on the lower side by the Indian 
Medical Council in the same manner as directed by us in the case of admissions to the M.B.B.S. course. But, even in 
regard to admissions to the post-graduate course, we would direct that so far as super-specialities such as neuro-surgery 
and cardiology are concerned, there should be no reservation at all even on the basis of institutional preference and 
admissions should be granted purely on merit on all India basis. 
 
What we have said about in regard to admissions to the M.B.B.S. and post-graduate courses must apply equally in relation 
to admissions to the B.D.S. and M.D.S. courses. So far as admissions to the B.D.S. and M.D.S. courses are concerned, it 
will be the Indian Dental Council which is the statutory body of dental practitioners, which will have to carry out the 
directions given by us to the Indian Medical Council in regard to admissions to M.B.B.S. and post-graduate courses. 
The directions given by us to the Indian Medical Council may, therefore, be read as applicable mutatis mutandis to the 
Indian Dental Council so far as admissions to BDS and MDS courses are concerned. 
 
The decisions reached by us in these writ petitions will bind the Union of India, the State Governments and Administrations 
of Union Territories because it lays down the law for the entire country and moreover we have reached this decision after 
giving notice to the Union of India and all the State Governments and Union Territories. We may point out that it is not 
necessary for us to give any further directions in these writ petitions in regard to the admissions of the petitioners in the 
writ petitions, because the academic term for which the admissions were sought has already expired and so far as it 
concerns the petitioners who have already been provisionally admitted, we have directed that the provisional admissions 
given to them shall not be disturbed but they shall be treated as final admissions. The writ petitions and the civil appeal 
will accordingly stand disposed of in the above terms. There will be no order as to costs in the writ petitions and the 
civil appeal. 
 
AMARENDRA NATH SEN, J. have had the advantage of reading the judgment of my learned brother, Bhagwati, J. I agree 
with the orders passed by my learned brother and also the directions given by him. I, however, propose to indicate in 
brief my own reasons.
 
My learned brother in his judgment has referred to various aspects of national life and has very aptly emphasised on the 
need of Unity of India. My learned brother in his judgment has set out the relevant facts and circumstances and has 
also considered the relevant decisions on the question involved in the present proceedings. 
 
Unity in diversity is the essential peculiarity of Indian culture and constitutes the basic philosophy of Indian nationality. 
It is also a fundamental tenet of our constitution which seeks to promote the unity while, maintaining at the same time, 
the distinctiveness of the various classes and kinds of people belonging to different States forming the Indian Nation. 
Equality in the eye of law is the fundamental postulates and is guaranteed under the Constitution. Each and every kind 
of discrimination is not in violation of the Constitutional concept of equality and does not necessarily undermine the 
Unity of India. The validity of any discrimination has to be tested on the touchstone of Art. 14 of the Constitution. 
Appropriate classification may, in very many cases, form the vary core of equality and promote unity in the true sense 
amidst diversity. 
 
To my mind the questions involved in these proceedings lies within a short compass. The first question relates to 
reservation of seats for admission to Medical Colleges in any State on the basis of residence of the applicant in the 
State for such admission. Connected with this question is the question of institutionalised reservation of seats for 
admission to Medical Colleges. The other question raised is the question of reservation of seats on such considerations 
for admission to post-graduate medical courses. 
 
The question of constitutional validity of reservation of seats within reasonable limits on the basis of residence and 
also the question of institutionalised reservation of seats clearly appear to be concluded by various decisions of this 
Court, as has been rightly pointed out by my learned brother in his judgment in which he has referred at length to 
these decisions. These decisions are binding on this Court and are to be followed. Constitutional validity of such 
reservations within the reasonable limit must, therefore, be upheld. 
 
The real question is the question of the extent of the limit to which such reservations may be considered to be 
reasonable. The question of reasonableness of such reservations must necessarily be determined with reference to 
the facts and circumstances of particular cases and with reference to the situation prevailing at any given time. 
My learned brother in his judgment has elaborately and carefully considered these aspects. On a careful consideration 
of all the facts and circumstances and the materials placed, my learned brother has proposed appropriate orders and 
has given necessary directions in this regard. The orders passed by my learned brother and the directions given by 
him on a consideration of the materials on record and the earlier decisions of this Court will serve the cause of justice, 
meet the requirements of law and will not affect or undermine national unity. I am, therefore, in entire agreement 
with the orders passed and directions given by him in this regard. 
 
On the question of admission to post-graduate medical courses I must confess that I have some misgivings in my 
mind as to the further classification made on the footings of super-specialities. Both my learned brothers, however, 
agree on this. Also, in a broader perspective, this classification may serve the interests of the nation better, though 
interests of individual States to a small extent may be affected. This distinction in case of super-specialities proceeds 
on the basis that in these very important spheres the criterion for selection should be merit only without institutionalised 
reservations or any reservation on the ground of residence. I also agree that the orders and directions proposed in 
regard to admission to MBBS and post-graduate courses are also to be read as applicable mutatis mutandis in relation 
to admission to BDS and MDS courses. 
 
The problem of admission to medical colleges and the post graduate medical studies can only be properly and effectively 
solved by the setting up of more medical colleges and by increasing the number of seats in such colleges to enable 
aspirants to have their aim of being qualified as medical practitioners and specialists in various subjects achieved. 
The same is also the position with regard to BDS and MDS courses. This aspect has been very appropriately noticed by 
my learned brother in his judgment. 
 
ORDER 
 
With these observations I agree with the orders passed and the directions given by my learned brother Bhagwati, J.
 
Some of the students seeking admission to the MBBS course in this academic year have made an application to this 
Court that the Judgment delivered on 22nd June, 1984 in the medical admission cases may be given effect to only from 
the next academic year, because admissions have already been made in the medical colleges attached to some of the 
Universities in the country prior to the delivery of the judgment on 22nd June, 1984 and moreover some time would be 
required for the purpose of achieving uniformity in the procedure relating to admissions in the various Universities. 
We accordingly issued notice on the application to the learned advocates who had appeared on behalf of the various 
parties at the hearing of the main writ petitions as also to the Attorney General and after hearing them, we have come 
to the conclusion and this is accepted by all parties that in view of the fact that all formalities for admission, including 
the holding of entrance examination, have been completed in some of the States prior to the judgment dated 22-6-1984 
and also since some time would we required for making the necessary preparations for implementing the judgment, it is 
not practicable to give effect to the judgment from the present academic year and in fact compelling some States to 
give effect to the judgment from the present academic year when others have not, would result in producing inequality 
and if all the States were to be required to implement the judgment immediately, admissions already made would have to 
be cancelled and fresh entrance examinations would have to be held and this would require at least 2 or 2 1/2 months 
delaying the commencement of the academic term apart from causing immense hardship to the students. We therefore 
direct that the judgment shall be implemented with effect from the next academic year 1985-86. Whatever admissions, 
provisional or otherwise, have been made for the academic year 1984-85, shall not be disturbed on the basis of the 
judgment. We may make it clear that the judgment will not apply to the States of Andhra Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir 
because at the time of hearing of the main writ petitions, it was pointed out to us by the learned advocates appearing 
on behalf of those States that there were special Constitutional provisions in regard to them which would need 
independent consideration by this Court. 
 
This order will form part of the main judgment delivered on 22-6-1984, H.S.K.