S. Manikumar, C.J.
1. Instant writ appeal is filed challenging the judgment dated 30.01.2015 in W.P.(C) No.21585 of 2013, by which, the writ court directed the respondents/appellants, to reimburse the tuition fee to the reserved category students in the writ petitioner institution, viz., Malabar Hotel Management & Catering Promotion Trust, with effect from 2004-2005.
2. According to the appellants, at present, educational assistance is given, in accordance with the guidelines contained in G.O.(P) No.50/2009/SCSTDD dated 2.7.2009. As per the guidelines, students of the Self Financing Institutions, admitted under the management quota, are not eligible for educational concessions.
3. When the matter came up for consideration on 24.06.2021, this Court directed the learned Government Pleader to obtain instructions as to whether, reimbursement of tuition fees for the Scheduled Caste/ Scheduled Tribe students of Hotel Management courses for the academic year 2004-2005 have been made or not.
4. Today, it is submitted by Sri. Surin George Ipe, learned Senior Government Pleader appearing for the appellants, that the tuition fee has not been refunded to the writ petitioner/respondent herein. Therefore, we proceed to consider the appeal on merits.
5. The paramount contention advanced by the appellants is that Oriental School of Hotel Management and Oriental College of Hotel Management and Culinary Arts are Private Financing Institutions functioning at Lakkidi in Wayanad District and run by the writ petitioner. In these institutions, courses such as, BHMCT (Bachelor of Hotel Management and Catering technology) and B.Sc. Hotel Management were started in the year 2004 and 2005 respectively. As per the instructions/ practice in force, for educational assistance to SC/ST/OEC students in any institution, the institution concerned has to apply, in advance, along with relevant documents, through Scheduled Castes Development Department, and obtain approval from Government of Kerala.
6. Appellants have further stated that the students studying in unapproved institutions are not eligible to get educational concessions from the department. Educational concessions are not disbursed by the department to the students, who studied in such unapproved institutions. According to them, these institutions, Oriental School of Hotel Management and Oriental College of Hotel Management and Culinary Arts, run by the writ petitioner/respondent herein, had not submitted any such proposal, for getting approval, through the Scheduled Castes Development Department.
7. Appellants have further contended that the institutions, which are not approved by the Scheduled Castes Development Department/ Government of Kerala, do not come under the purview of G.O.(MS) No.3/2007/SCSTDD dated 11.01.2007, and therefore, not allowed the educational assistance, as per the said Government order.
8. Moreover, Oriental School of Hotel Management (owned and managed by Malabar Hotel Management and Catering Promotion Trust) has never submitted an application for recognition to the Scheduled Castes Development Department, in time, and therefore, any claim for educational benefit, even before the date of such submission, cannot be entertained, as per the existing norms/orders.
9. Learned Senior Government Pleader for the appellants further contended that as per G.O.(MS) No.3/2007/SCSTDD dated 11.01.2007, issued in this regard, educational concessions were extended to the students, studying in the self financing courses in the Universities, State Government, and Central Government controlled institutions (LBS Centre, IHRD, C.Dit, ER&DC (C-Dac) etc., and Government controlled Co-operative institutions, and this benefit is not applicable to the students studying in private unaided institutions, as the students are getting admission in these institutions, neither, through the Entrance Test conducted by Government or any government agency nor through merit basis. Hence, the institutions are not allowed educational concessions from the Scheduled Caste Development Department, as ordered in the abovesaid Government order dated 11.01.2007.
10. The Principal, Oriental School of Hotel Management, vide letter dated 12.06.2008, had requested the Development Officer, Scheduled Caste Development Office, Kalpetta, to reimburse the fee for 13 students of the institution. Then, the wit petitioner made a representation to the Government on 21.10.2008, and submitted a letter to the District Development Officer, Scheduled Caste Development Department, Wayanad, on 18.04.2009, with the same request. Thereafter, being aggrieved by the non-consideration of his representation, he approached this Court, by filing W.P.(C) No.24804 of 2009. This Court disposed of the writ petition vide judgment dated 28.03.2012, directing the Government to consider the representation of the writ petitioner, in accordance with law, within three months from the date of receipt of the judgment. Later, the Government vide G.O.(Rt) No.959/2013/SCSTDD dated 16.07.2013, rejected the above request of petitioner. Challenging the said Government Order, the writ petitioner filed W.P.(C) No.21585 of 2013 before this Court and, by judgment dated 30.01.2015, a learned Single Judge allowed the writ petition.
11. According to the appellants, as per the guidelines contained in G.O.(P) No.50/2009/SCSTDD dated 02.07.2009, the students of the Self Financing Institutions, admitted under the management quota, are not eligible for educational assistance. However, challenging the same, some of the students have filed WP(C) No.22484 of 2008 and connected cases before this Court, and by judgment dated 7.9.2012, a Hon'ble Division Bench, granted relief to the petitioners, who secured admission under the management quota in Self Financing Institutions.
12. Government have preferred a Special Leave Petition before the Hon'ble Supreme Court (SLP Nos.8073 to 8080 of 2013) and subsequently, the judgments of the High Court were stayed. The judgment dated 30.01.2015 of the High Court is also against the general guidelines contained in the orders in force at that point of time i.e., G.O. (MS)No.3/2007/SCSTDD dated 11.01.2007. In such circumstances, the Government have decided to prefer an appeal against the said judgment dated 30.01.2015 also. The appeal is in connection with the G.O.(MS) No.3/2007/SCSTDD dated 11.01.2007, which is still in force.
13. Therefore, the contention advanced by Mr. Surin George Ipe, learned Senior Government Pleader, is that the judgment of the learned Single Judge deserves to be reversed, because the guidelines contained in Exhibit-P6 order 16.07.2013 speak for themselves and that, the claim raised by the writ petitioner/respondent for reimbursement of the fees during the period 2004-2005, cannot be sustained.
14. He also contended that as per Exhibit-P6 order dated 16.07.2013, the institutions where students underwent the course, are under the direct ownership and control of the recognized Universities, and the institutions where students studying in self financing courses, under the control of the Central and State Governments, [LBS Centre, IHRD, C-Dit, ER&DC (C-Dac) etc.], are eligible for fee concessions and reimbursement of the fees. Thus, according to the learned Senior Government Pleader, the said Government Order would not enure to the benefit of the respondent institution or any private management and trusts. Therefore, the writ petitioner/respondent herein is not eligible and entitled for reimbursement of the fees.
15. After taking into consideration the various facts and figures, and the Constitutional mandate, under Part III of the Constitution of India, learned Single Judge arrived at the conclusion that the action of the Government, in making a distinction between the Scheduled Caste students, pursuing their studies in the institutions, prescribed in the Government notification, and in the private establishments of hotel management, is a clear discrimination and cannot be sustained under law. Relevant portions of the judgment impugned in this writ appeal, are extracted below:
'10. As the petitioner institution has understood that the reserved students of the State Institute of Hospitality Management, Calicut conducted by the Ministry of Tourism, Government of Kerala has received tuition fee reimbursement, they approached this Court with W.P(C) No.24804 of 2009 which was disposed of directing the Government to consider the claim of the petitioner for reimbursement.
11. It is crucial to note that the Government had issued an order on 11.1.2007 providing fee concession and other benefits to the reserved category students in self financing institutions run by the Universities, IHRD, LBS Centre and Co-operative Societies, as evidenced by Ext.P5. Ext.P5 has retrospective operation from 2004-2005. It is relevant to note that the respondents have no case that the petitioner's institution is not a recognised institution. The respondents could not point out a genuine reason for treating the students of the petitioner's institution differently for not extending the benefit of fee concession.
12. The reimbursement of tuition fee claimed by the petitioner was rejected by Ext.P6. The petitioner points out that the same has been granted to other institutions which were in the self financing sector.
13. Our nation has adopted the concept of a welfare State and the constitutional mandate emanating from the directive principles of State Policy provides for the upliftment of SC/ST categories. It is with this objective that the State provides educational concessions to reserved category students. The constitutional provisions make no distinction between Government, private or self financing colleges. Therefore, this Court is of the view that the denial of the benefit to the students coming under self financing colleges is unconstitutional and the same calls for an interference of this Court.
14. The Government have sanctioned tuition fee reimbursement to SC/ST students in courses like Ayurveda, Nursing etc. There is no convincing reason why SC/ST students of Hotel Management courses should not be granted such reimbursement particularly when tourism is a sector in which much importance is stressed as per Government Policy. If reimbursement is not allowed to the petitioner's institution, the students belonging to marginal sector studying in the petitioner's institution would be compelled to pay tuition fee and the same would be against the purpose sought to be achieved by our constitution. The failure of the Government to reimburse the tuition fees of reserved category students studying in the petitioner's institution is discriminatory since such students pursuing similar courses in other institutions are granted such reimbursement. Therefore, this Court is of the view that the petitioner is entitled to succeed.
In the result, the writ petition is allowed. Ext.P6 is quashed. The respondents are directed to reimburse the tuition fee of reserved category students in the institutions run by the petitioner with effect from 2004-2005.'
16. Challenging the legality and correctness of the judgment of the learned Single Judge, this intra court appeal is preferred.
17. The discussion of facts made above would make it clear that by virtue of the Government Orders, State Government have made a distinction between the students belonging to the Scheduled Caste community, who have secured admission through entrance examinations, studying in Government controlled institutions, and those, who have secured direct admission in the Self Financing Institutions.
18. The question emerges for consideration is, whether any such distinction is possible, and if done so, whether it is discriminatory.
19. Article 15 of the Constitution of India prohibits discrimination, on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth, and it clearly prescribes that the State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them and 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 various aspects mentioned under Article 15.
20. However, it is relevant to note that clause (5) of Article 15 of the Constitution of India enables the State Government to make any special provision, by law, for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes or the Scheduled Tribes in so far as such special provisions relate to their admission to educational institutions, including private educational institutions, whether aided or unaided by the State, other than the minority educational institutions referred to in clause (1) of Article 30, irrespective of the provisions contained under Article 15 and clause (1) sub clause (g) of Article 19 of the Constitution.
21. It is with the noble intention of protecting the Scheduled Caste community, a National Commission for Scheduled Castes is constituted under Article 338 of the Constitution of India, which is extracted below:
'338. National Commission for Scheduled Castes:
(1) There shall be a Commission for the Scheduled Castes to be known as the National Commission for the Scheduled Castes.
(2) Subject to the provisions of any law made in this behalf by Parliament, the Commission shall consist of a Chairperson, Vice- Chairperson and three other Members and the conditions of service and tenure of office of the Chairperson, Vice- Chairperson and other Members so appointed shall be such as the President may by rule determine.
(3) The Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson and other Members of the Commission shall be appointed by the President by warrant under his hand and seal.
(4) The Commission shall have the power to regulate its own procedure.
(5) It shall be the duty of the Commission -
(a) to investigate and monitor all matters relating to the safeguards provided for the Scheduled Castes under this Constitution or under any other law for the time being in force or under any order of the Government and to evaluate the working of such safeguards;
(b) to inquire into specific complaints with respect to the deprivation of rights and safeguards of the Scheduled Castes;
(c) to participate and advise on the planning process of socioeconomic development of the Scheduled Castes and to evaluate the progress of their development under the Union and any State;
(d) to present to the President, annually and at such other times as the Commission may deem fit, reports upon the working of those safeguards;
(e) to make in such reports recommendations as to the measures that should be taken by the Union or any State for the effective implementation of those safeguards and other measures for the protection, welfare and socio-economic development of the Scheduled Castes; and
(f) to discharge such other functions in relation to the protection, welfare and development and advancement of the Scheduled Castes as the President may, subject to the provisions of any law made by Parliament, by rule specify.
(6) The President shall cause all such reports to be laid before each House of Parliament along with a memorandum explaining the action taken or proposed to be taken on the recommendations relating to the Union and the reasons for the non-acceptance, if any, of any of such recommendations.
(7) Where any such report, or any part thereof, relates to any matter with which any State Government is concerned, a copy of such report shall be forwarded to the Governor of the State who shall cause it to be laid before the Legislature of the State along with a memorandum explaining the action taken or proposed to be taken on the recommendations relating to the State and the reasons for the non-acceptance, if any, of any of such recommendations.
(8) The Commission shall, while investigating any matter referred to in sub-clause (a) or inquiring into any complaint referred to in sub-clause (b) of clause (5), have all the powers of a civil court trying a suit and in particular in respect of the following matters, namely :-
(a) summoning and enforcing the attendance of any person from any part of India and examining him on oath;
(b) requiring the discovery and production of any document;
(c) receiving evidence on affidavits (d) requisitioning any public record or copy thereof from any court or office;
(e) issuing commissions for the examination of witnesses and documents;
(f) any other matter which the President may, by rule, determine.
(9) The Union and every State Government shall consult the Commission on all major policy matters affecting Scheduled Castes.
(10) In this article, references to the Scheduled Castes shall be construed as including references to such other backward classes as the President may, on receipt of the report of a Commission appointed under clause (1) of article 340, by order specify and also to the Anglo-Indian community.'
22. Contention of the appellants is that the students, who have secured admissions only through entrance examinations, are entitled to refund of tuition fee and not the students, who secured admission, in the institutions, without undergoing the entrance examination.
23. It cannot be disputed that the concessions given to these students are not on the basis of their inter se merit, but the concession is extended to SC/ST students, solely on the basis of historical social disability.
24. The question to be considered is whether, there is any reasonableness in making a classification, and whether, it is in the interest of the students belonging to the SC/ST, as a homogeneous class, owing to their social disability, whether the mode of securing admission in the educational institutions through the entrance examination or merit, as contended by the State, is an intelligible differentia between the students, with reference to the object and policy of the Government, in extending fee restrictions to the SC/ST students. On the above aspect, let us consider a few decisions on Article 14 of the Constitution of India, classification, and intelligible differentia, as under.
(i) Article 14 does not prohibit reasonable classification, but for passing a test of permissible classification, there are two conditions, which have been time and again laid down and reiterated. It is useful to refer to the Constitution Bench judgment of the Hon'ble Supreme Court in Budhan Choudhary v. State of Bihar reported in AIR 1955 SC 191, wherein at paragraph 5, the following has been laid down:
'5….It is now well established that while Article 14 forbids class legislation, it does not forbid reasonable classification for the purposes of legislation. In order, however, to pass the test of permissible classification two conditions must be fulfilled, namely, (i) that the classification must be founded on an intelligible differentia which distinguishes persons or things that are grouped together from others left out of the group and (ii) that differentia must have a rational relation to the object sought to be achieved by the statute in question. The classification may be founded on different bases; namely, geographical, or according to objects or occupations or the like. What is necessary is that there must be a nexus between the basis of classification and the object of the Act under consideration. It is also well established by the decisions of this Court that Article 14 condemns discrimination not only by a substantive law but also by a law of procedure…'
(ii) In Probhudas Morarjee Rajkotia v. Union of India, reported in AIR 1966 SC 1044, a Constitutional Bench of the Hon'ble Supreme Court, while interpreting Article 14 of the Constitution of India, held as follows:
"8. ...... It cannot be too strongly emphasized that to make out a case of denial of the equal protection of the laws under Art.14 of the Constitution, a plea of differential treatment is by itself not sufficient. An applicant pleading that Article 14 has been violated must make out that not only he had been treated differently from other but he has been so treated from persons similarly circumstanced without any reasonable basis, and such differential treatment is unjustifiably made."
(iii) In Harakchand Ratanchand Banthia v. Union of India, reported in (1969) 2 SCC 166 : AIR 1970 SC 1453, at paragraph No.23, the Hon'ble Supreme Court, held thus:-
'23….When a law is challenged as violative of Article 14 of the Constitution it is necessary in the first place to ascertain the policy underlying the statute and the object intended to be achieved by it. Having ascertained the policy and object of the Act the Court has to apply a dual test in examining its validity (1) whether the classification is rational and based upon an intelligible differentia which distinguishes persons or things that are grouped together from others that are left out of the group and (2) whether the basis of differentiation has any rational nexus or relation with its avowed policy and object…'
(iv) In Western M.P. Electric Power & Supply Co. Ltd. v. State of U.P., reported in AIR 1970 SC 21, the Hon'ble Supreme Court held that Article 14 of the Constitution of India does not operate against rational classification. Relevant portion of the said decision is as under:
"7. Article 14 of the Constitution ensures equality among equals; its aim is to protect persons similarly placed against discriminatory treatment. It does not, however, operate against rational classification. A person setting up a grievance of denial of equal treatment by law must establish that between persons similarly circumstanced, some were treated to their prejudice and the differential treatment had no reasonable relation to the object sought to be achieved by the law."
(v) In Mohd. Shujat Ali v. Union of India [(1975) 3 SCC 76], at paragraphs (23) to (26), the Hon'ble Apex Court held as under:
'23............Article 14 ensures to every person equality before law and equal protection of the laws and Article 16 lays down that there shall be equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters plating to employment or appointment to any office under the State. Article 16 is only an instance or incident of the guarantee of equality enshrined in Article 14: it gives effect to the doctrine of equality in the sphere of public employment. The concept of equal opportunity to be found in Article 16 permeates the whole spectrum of an individual's employment from appointment through promotion and termination to the payment of gratuity and pension and gives expression to the ideal of equality of opportunity which is one of the great socioeconomic objectives set out in the Preamble of the Constitution. The Constitutional code of equality and equal opportunity, however, does not mean that the same laws must be applicable to all persons. It does not compel the State to run "all its laws in the channels of general legislation". It recognises that having regard to differences and disparities which exist among men and things, they cannot all be treated alike by the application of the same laws. "To recognise marked differences that exist in fact is living law; to disregard practical differences and concentrate on some abstract identities is lifeless logic. Morey v. Doud 354 U. S. 457. The Legislature must necessarily, if it is to be effective at all in solving the manifold problems which continually come before it, enact special legislation directed towards specific ends and limited in its application to special classes of person or things. "Indeed, the greater part or all legislation is special, either in the extent to which it operates, or the objects sought to be attained by it."
24.....................The equal protection of the laws is a "pledge of the protection of equal laws". But laws may classify. And, as pointed out by Justice Brawer, "the very idea of classification is that of inequality". The Court has tackled this paradox over the years and in doing so, it has neither abandoned the demand for equality nor denied the legislative right to classify. It has adopted a middle course of realistic reconciliation. It has resolved the contradictory demands of legislative specialization and constitutional generality by a doctrine of reasonable classification. This doctrine recognises that the legislature may classify for the purpose of legislation but requires that the classification must be reasonable. It should ensure that persons or things similarly situated are all similarly treated. The measure of reasonableness of a classification is the degree of its success in treating similarly those similarly situated.
25...................A reasonable classification is one which includes all persons or things similarly situated with respect to the purpose of the law. There should be no discrimination between one person or thing and another, if as regards the subject-matter of the legislation their position is substantially the same. This is sometimes epigrammatically described by saying that what the constitutional code of equality and equal opportunity requires is that among equals, the law should be equal and that like should be treated alike. But the basic principle underlying the doctrine is that the Legislature should have the right to classify and impose special burdens upon or grant special benefits to persons or things grouped together under the classification, so long as the classification is of persons or things similarly situated with respect to the purpose of the legislation, so that all persons or things similarly situated are treated alike by law. The test which has been evolved for this purpose is - and this test has been consistently applied by this Court in all decided cases since the commencement of the Constitution - that the classification must be founded on an intelligible differentia which distinguishes certain persons or things that are grouped together from others and that differentia must have a rational relation to the object sought to be achieved by the legislation.
26. But we have to be constantly on our guard to see that this test which has been evolved as a matter of practical necessity with a view to reconciling the demand for equality with the need for special legislation directed towards specific ends necessitated by the complex and varied problems which require solution at the hands of the Legislature, does not degenerate into rigid formula to be blindly and mechanically applied whenever the validity of any legislation is called in question. The fundamental guarantee is of equal protection of the laws and the doctrine of classification is only a subsidiary rule evolved by courts to give a practical content to that guarantee by accommodating it with the practical needs of the society and it should not be allowed to submerge and drown the precious guarantee of equality. The doctrine of classification should not be carried to a point where instead of being a useful servant, it becomes a dangerous master, for otherwise, as pointed out by Chandrachud, J., in State of Jammu & Kashmir v. Triloki Nath Khosa (AIR 1974 SC 1), the guarantee of equality will be submerged in class legislation masquerading as laws meant to govern well-marked classes characterised by different and distinct attainments". Overemphasis on the doctrine of classification or an anxious and sustained attempt to discover some basis for classification may gradually and imperceptibly deprive the guarantee of equality of its spacious content. That process would inevitably end in substituting the doctrine of classification for the doctrine of equality: the fundamental right to equality before the law and equal protection of the laws may be replaced by the overworked methodology of classification. Our approach to the equal protection clause must, therefore, be guided by the words of caution uttered by Krishna Iyer, J. in State of Jammu & Kashmir v. Triloki Nath Khosa: (at SCC p.42)
"Mini-classifications based on micro-distinctions are false to our egalitarian faith and only substantial and straightforward classifications plainly promoting relevant goals can have constitutional validity. To overdo classification is to undo equality."
(vi) In D.S. Nakara v. Union of India, reported in (1983) 1 SCC 305, a Constitutional Bench of the Hon'ble Supreme Court explained the said concept of Article 14 of the Constitution of India, and held as under:
"11. The decisions clearly lay down that though Article 14 forbids class legislation, it does not forbid reasonable classification for the purpose of legislation. In order, however, to pass the test of permissible classification, two conditions must be fulfilled viz. (i) that the classification must be founded on an intelligible differentia which distinguishes persons or things that are grouped together from those that are left out of the group; and (ii) that that differentia must have a rational relation to the objects sought to be achieved by the statute in question (see Ram Krishna Dalmia v. Justice S.R. Tendolkar, AIR 1958 SC 538). The classification may be founded on differential basis according to objects sought to be achieved but what is implicit in it is that there ought to be a nexus i.e. causal connection between the basis of classification and object of the statute under consideration. It is equally well settled by the decisions of this Court that Article 14 condemns discrimination not only by a substantive law but also by a law of procedure.
12. After an exhaustive review of almost all decisions bearing on the question of Article 14, this Court speaking through Chandrachud, C.J. in In re Special Courts Bill, 1978, AIR 1979 SC 478, restated the settled propositions which emerged from the judgments of this Court undoubtedly insofar as they were relevant to the decision on the points arising for consideration in that matter. Four of them are apt and relevant for the present purpose and may be extracted. They are:
(3) The constitutional command to the State to afford equal protection of its laws sets a goal not attainable by the invention and application of a precise formula. Therefore, classification need not be constituted by an exact or scientific exclusion or inclusion of persons or things. The courts should not insist on delusive exactness or apply doctrinaire tests for determining the validity of classification in any given case. Classification is justified if it is not palpably arbitrary.
(4) The principle underlying the guarantee of Article 14 is not that the same rules of law should be applicable to all persons within the Indian territory or that the same remedies should be made available to them irrespective of differences of circumstances. It only means that all persons similarly circumstanced shall be treated alike both in privileges conferred and liabilities imposed. Equal laws would have to be applied to all in the same situation, and there should be no discrimination between one person and another if as regards the subject-matter of the legislation their position is substantially the same.
(6) The law can make and set apart the classes according to the needs and exigencies of the society and as suggested by experience. It can recognise even degree of evil, but the classification should never be arbitrary, artificial or evasive.
(7) The classification must not be arbitrary but must be rational, that is to say, it must not only be based on some qualities or characteristics which are to be found in all the persons grouped together and not in others who are left out but those qualities or characteristics must have a reasonable relation to the object of the legislation. In order to pass the test, two conditions must be fulfilled, namely, (1) that the classification must be founded on an intelligible differentia which distinguishes those that are grouped together from others and (2) that that differentia must have a rational relation to the object sought to be achieved by the Act. "
(vii) In R.K. Garg and Ors. v. Union of India (UOI) and Ors. [(1981) 4 SCC 675], the Hon'ble Apex Court held that in order to pass the test of reasonable classification, two conditions must be fulfilled, namely, (i) that the classification must be founded on an intelligible differentia which distinguishes those that are grouped together from others and (ii) that differentia must have a rational relation to the object sought to be achieved by the Act. It was further held that the differentia which is the basis of the classification and the object of the Act are distinct things and what is necessary is that there must be a nexus between them. This means, Article 14 forbids class discrimination by conferring privileges or imposing liabilities upon persons arbitrarily selected out of a large number of other persons similarly situated in relation to the privileges sought to be conferred or the liabilities proposed to be imposed, it however, does not forbid classification for the purpose of legislation, provided such classification is not arbitrary. In other words, what is necessary, in order to pass the test of permissible classification under Article 14, is that the classification must not be "arbitrary, artificial or evasive" but must be based on some real and substantial distinction bearing a just and reasonable relation to the object sought to be achieved by the legislature.
(viii) In Sri Srinivasa Theatre and others v. Government of Tamil Nadu and others, reported in (1992) 2 SCC 643, while explaining the scope of Article 14, the Hon'ble Supreme Court at paragraph Nos.9 and 10, held as under:
"9. Article 14 of the Constitution enjoin upon the State not to deny to any person 'Equality before law' or 'the equal protection of laws' within the territory of India. The two expressions do not mean the same thing even if there may be much in common. Section 1 of the XIV Amendment to U.S. Constitution uses only the latter expression whereas the Irish Constitution (1937) and the West German Constitution (1949) use the expression "equal before law" alone. Both these expressions are used together in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, Article 7 whereof says "All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law." While ascertaining the meaning and content of these expressions, however, we need not be constrained by the interpretation placed upon them in those countries though their relevance is undoubtedly great. It has to be found and determined having regard to the context and scheme of our Constitution. It appears to us that the word "law" in the former expression is used in a generic sense-a philosophical sense-whereas the word "law" in the latter expression denotes specific laws in force.
10. Equality before law is a dynamic concept having many facets. One facet-the most commonly acknowledged-is that there shall be no privileged person or class and that none shall be above law. A facet which is of immediate relevance herein is the obligation upon the State to bring about, through the machinery of law, a more equal society envisaged by the preamble and part IV of our Constitution."
(ix) In Venkateshwara Theatre v. State of Andhra Pradesh and Others, reported in (1993) 3 SCC 677, at paragraph Nos.20 and 23, the Hon'ble Supreme Court held as under:
"20. Article 14 enjoins the State not to deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws. The phrase "equality before the law" contains the declaration of equality of the civil rights of all persons within the territories of India. It is a basic principle of republicanism. The phrase "equal protection of laws" is adopted from the Fourteenth Amendment to U.S. Constitution. The right conferred by Article 14 postulates that all persons similarly circumstanced shall be treated alike both in privileges conferred and liabilities imposed. Since the State, in exercise of its governmental power, has, of necessity, to make laws operating differently on different groups of persons within its territory to attain particular ends in giving effect to its policies, it is recognised that the State must possess the power of distinguishing and classifying persons or things to be subjected to such laws. It is, however, required that the classification must satisfy two conditions namely, (i) it is founded on an intelligible differentia which distinguishes those that are grouped together from others; and (ii) the differentia must have a rational relation to the object sought to be achieved by the Act. It is not the requirement that the classification should be scientifically perfect or logically complete. Classification would be justified if it is not palpably arbitrary. [See: Re Special Courts Bill,  2 SCR 476 at pp. 534- 5361. It there is equality and uniformity within each group, the law will not be condemned as discriminative, though due to some fortuitous circumstance arising out of a peculiar situation some included in a class get and advantage over others, so long as they are not singled out for special treatment. [See: Khandige Sham Bhat v. Agricultural Income-Tax Officer,  3 SCR 809 at p. 8 171.
23. Just a difference in treatment of persons similarly situate leads of discrimination, so also discrimination can arise if persons who are unequals, i.e. differently placed, are treated similarly. In such a case failure on the part of the legislature to classify the persons who are dissimilar in separate categories and applying the same law, irrespective of the differences, brings about the same consequence as in a case where the law makes a distinction between persons who are similarly placed. A law providing for equal treatment of unequal objects, transactions or persons would be condemned as discriminatory if there is absence of rational relation to the object intended to be achieved by the law."
(x) In L.I.C. of India and Another v. Consumer Education & Research Centre and Others, reported in (1995) 5 SCC 482, the Hon'ble Apex Court reiterated the above noted principle in the following words:
"The doctrine of classification is only a subsidiary rule evolved by the courts to give practical content to the doctrine of equality, overemphasis on the doctrine of classification or anxious or sustained attempt to discover some basis for classification may gradually and imperceptibly erode the profound potency of the glorious content of equality enshrined in Article 14 of the Constitution. The overemphasis on classification would inevitably result in substitution of the doctrine of classification to the doctrine of equality and the Preamble of the Constitution which is an integral part and scheme of the Constitution. Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India [1978 (1) SCC 248] ratio extricated it from this moribund and put its elasticity for egalitarian path finder lest the classification would deny equality to the larger segments of the society. The classification based on employment in Government, semi-Government and reputed commercial firms has the insidious and inevitable effect of excluding lives in vast rural and urban areas engaged in unorganized or self- employed sectors to have life insurance offending Article 14 of the Constitution and socio-economic justice."
(xi) In K. Thimmappa v. Chairman, Central Board of Directors, SBI, [(2001) 2 SCC 259], the Hon'ble Supreme Court observed that the classification under Article 14 of the Constitution of India need not be a scientifically perfect one and it is sufficient if the distinction is on just and reasonable relation to the object of the legislation. The relevant portion is as under:
"3. .................... Before we deal with the respective contentions of the parties it would be appropriate for us to notice that what Article 14 prohibits is class legislation and not reasonable classification for the purpose of legislation. If the rule-making authority takes care to reasonably classify persons for a particular purpose and if it deals equally with all persons belonging to a welldefined class then it would not be open to the charge of discrimination. But to pass the test of permissible classification two conditions must be fulfilled:
(a) that the classification must be founded on an intelligible differentia which distinguishes persons or things which are grouped together from others left out of the group; and
(b) that the differentia must have a rational relation to the object sought to be achieved by the statute in question.
The classification may be founded on different basis and what is necessary is that there must be a nexus between the basis of classification and the object under consideration. Article 14 of the Constitution does not insist that the classification should be scientifically perfect and a court would not interfere unless the alleged classification results in apparent inequality. When a law is challenged to be discriminatory essentially on the ground that it denies equal treatment or protection, the question for determination by court is not whether it has resulted in inequality but whether there is some difference which bears a just and reasonable relation to the object of legislation. Mere differentiation does not per se amount to discrimination within the inhibition of the equal protection clause. To attract the operation of the clause it is necessary to show that the selection or differentiation is unreasonable or arbitrary; that it does not rest on any rational basis having regard to the object which the legislature has in view. If a law deals with members of a well-defined class then it is not obnoxious and it is not open to the charge of denial of equal protection on the ground that it has no application to other persons. It is for the rule-making authority to determine what categories of persons would embrace within the scope of the rule and merely because some categories which would stand on the same footing as those which are covered by the rule are left out would not render the rule or the law enacted in any manner discriminatory and violative of Article 14. It is not possible to exhaust the circumstances or criteria which may afford a reasonable basis for classification in all cases. It depends on the object of the legislation, and what it really seeks to achieve."
(xii) In Amita v. Union of India, reported in (2005) 13 SCC 721, at paragraph No.11, the Hon'ble Supreme Court held as under:
"11. ....Article 14 of the Constitution of India guarantees to every citizen of India the right to equality before the law or the equal protection of law. The first expression "equality before the law" which is taken from the English common law, is a declaration of equality of all persons within the territory of India, implying thereby the absence of any special privilege in favour of any individual. It also means that amongst the equals the law should be equal and should be equally administered and that likes should be treated alike. Thus, what forbids is discrimination between persons who are substantially in similar circumstances or conditions. It does not forbid different treatment of unequal. Article 14 of the Constitution of India is both negative and positive right. Negative in the sense that no one can be discriminated against anybody and everyone should be treated as equals. The latter is the core and essence of right to equality and state has obligation to take necessary steps so that every individual is given equal respect and concern which he is entitled as a human being. Therefore, Art.14 contemplates reasonableness in the State action, the absence of which would entail the violation of Art.14 of the Constitution."
(xiii) In Confederation of Ex-Servicemen Association v. Union of India, reported in AIR 2006 SC 2945, at paragraph No.27, the Hon'ble Supreme Court held as under:
"It is now well established that while article 14 is designed to prevent a person or class of persons from being singled out from others similarly situated for the purpose of being specially subjected to discriminating and hostile legislation, it does not insist on an "abstract symmetry" in the sense that every piece of legislation must have universal application. All persons are not, by nature, attainment or circumstances, equal and the varying needs of different classes of persons often require separate treatment and, therefore, the protecting clause has been construed as a guarantee against discrimination amongst equals only and not as taking away from the State the power to classify persons for the purpose of legislation. This classification may be on different bases. It may be geographical or according to objects or occupations or the like Mere classification, however, is not enough to get over the inhibition of the Article. The classification must not be arbitrary but must be rational, that is to say, it must not only be based on some qualities or characteristics which are to be found in all the persons grouped together and not in others who are left out but those qualities or characteristics must have a reasonable relation to the object of the legislation. In order to pass the test, two conditions must be fulfilled, namely, that the classification must be founded on an intelligible differentia which distinguishes those that are grouped together from others and that that differentia must have a rational relation to the object sought to be achieved by the Act. The differentia which is the basis of the classification and the object of the Act are distinct things and what is necessary is that there must be a nexus between them. In short, while the Article forbids class legislation in the sense of making improper discrimination by conferring privileges or imposing liabilities upon persons arbitrarily selected out of a large number of other persons similarly situated in relation to the privileges sought to be conferred or the liability proposed to be imposed, it does not forbid classification for the purpose of legislation, provided such classification is not arbitrary in the sense I have just explained."
(xiv) In Union of India (UOI) and Ors. v. N.S. Rathnam and Sons [(2015) 10 SCC 681, the Hon'ble Supreme held as under:
'16. It is, thus, beyond any pale of doubt that the justiciability of particular Notification can be tested on the touchstone of Article 14 of the Constitution. Article 14, which is treated as basic feature of the Constitution, ensures equality before the law or equal protection of laws. Equal protection means the right to equal treatment in similar circumstances, both in the privileges conferred and in the liabilities imposed. Therefore, if the two persons or two sets of persons are similarly situated/placed, they have to be treated equally. At the same time, the principle of equality does not mean that every law must have universal application for all persons who are not by nature, attainment or circumstances in the same position. It would mean that the State has the power to classify persons for legitimate purposes. The legislature is competent to exercise its discretion and make classification. Thus, every classification is in some degree likely to produce some inequality but mere production of inequality is not enough. Article 14 would be treated as violated only when equal protection is denied even when the two persons belong to same class/category. Therefore, the person challenging the act of the State as violative of Article 14 has to show that there is no reasonable basis for the differentiation between the two classes created by the State. Article 14 prohibits class legislation and not reasonable classification.
What follows from the above is that in order to pass the test of permissible classification two conditions must be fulfilled, namely, (i) that the classification must be founded on an intelligible differential which distinguishes persons or things that are grouped together from others left out of the group and (ii) that, that differential must have a rational relation to the object sought to be achieved by the statute in question. If the government fails to support its action of classification on the touchstone of the principle whether the classification is reasonable having an intelligible differentia and a rational basis germane to the purpose, the classification has to be held as arbitrary and discriminatory.
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20. We are conscious of the principle that the difference which will warrant a reasonable classification need not be great. However, it has to be shown that the difference is real and substantial and there must be some just and reasonable relation to the object of legislation or notification. Classification having regard to microscopic differences is not good. To borrow the phrase from the judgment in Roopchand Adlakha v. D.D.A. [(1989) 1 Supp. SCC 116]:
"To overdo classification is to undo equality."
25. The object sought to be achieved in providing financial concession to the SC/ST students is for educational purposes. Analysing the decisions of the Hon'ble Supreme Court, we are of the view that merely because, some of the students belonging to SC/ST, secure admission to the courses, without undergoing the examination, it cannot be said that there is a fundamental distinction, with regard to the community at large. All the students belonging to SC/ST community, homogeneously suffer from social disability and thus the financial assistance. It is not the case of the Government that the students, who secure admission in the institutions run by the respondent, do not suffer from social disability.
26. Classification, which the Government have adopted, is not in accordance with the directive principles of State Policy and it is manifestly unreasonable. Such a classification is violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India.
27. Distinction placed by the Government is nothing, but an artificial and impermissible classification, among the students belonging to SC/ST community. The classification is not founded on intelligible differentia.
28. Classification made by the Government is not germane to the object sought to be achieved, i.e., providing financial assistance to the SC/ST students, and that, the same has no nexus to the object sought to be achieved.
29. It should be the committed liability of the State, to extend refund of fee to the SC/ST students, notwithstanding the method of selection, and such students, who could not secure admission through the entrance examination, conducted by the State, cannot be denied of their right to pursue education, in the Self Financing Institutions. Their educational dreams cannot be shattered and nipped at the bud. Government should consider that they would be constrained to pay tuition fees, in some cases, even more than the fee fixed by the Government.
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/>30. On an analysis of the said imperative conditions, contained under Articles 338 of the Constitution of India, it is clear that the Government is not at liberty to classify the benefits available to the members of the Scheduled Caste community, for the mere reason that they have secured admission directly in the institutions managed by the Self Financing Institutions. 31. What is intended under the provisions of the Constitution is, to provide necessary help and assistance to the members of the Scheduled Caste community, as a class by itself, and therefore, the Central and State Governments are bound to protect the welfare and development of the members of the Scheduled Caste community, without making any discrimination between them especially, in the matter of providing fee concession to the students, pursuing education in various educational institutions, irrespective of the fact as to whether, it is a Government controlled institution. 32. On the other hand, it is explicit and unequivocal that, it is always the intention of the framers of the Constitution, that the Governments, without fail, shall ensure their welfare, progress, and development to satisfy the Constitutional requirements. 33. Thus, bearing in mind the aspects mandated under the Constitution of India, the learned Single Judge has interpreted the orders of the State Government and directed reimbursement of fees to the students, who have pursued their studies in the writ petitioner institution. 34. We are also of the firm opinion that the distinction made by the State Government, between the students securing admission through the entrance examination, in the institutions controlled and regulated by the State Government, and the students belonging to the Scheduled Caste community, who have secured admission directly, in any institution conducted by any management, is a clear discrimination and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India, which clearly manifests, not to deny to any person, equality before law or equal protection of the laws, within the territory of India. 35. Added to above, are the duties and obligations of the State, as per the Directive Principles of State Policy, contained under Part IV of the Constitution of India. Article 39 of the Constitution mandates a duty on the State, to secure a social order, for the promotion of welfare of the people, by securing and protecting as effectively as it may a social order in which, social, economic, and political, shall inform all institutions of the national life and further that, the State shall eliminate inequalities in status, facilities and opportunities, not only among individuals, but also among groups of people engaged in different vocations. So also, Article 46 of the Constitution of India, which casts a duty on the State for promotion, with special care of the educational and economic interests of weaker sections of the people, and in particular, the Scheduled Castes and the Schedule Tribes, and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation. 36. On the reference to the interim orders of the Hon'ble Supreme Court in S.L.P(C) Nos.8073 to 8080 of 2013, in Shree Chamundi Mopeds Ltd. v. Church of South India Trust Association CSI Cinod Secretariat, Madras (AIR 1992 SC 1439), the Hon'ble Apex Court explained thus: '.......While considering the effect of an interim order staying the operation of the order under challenge, a distinction has to be made between quashing of an order and stay of operation of an order. Quashing of an order results in the restoration of the position as it stood on the date of the passing of the order which has been quashed. The stay of operation of an order does not, however, lead to such a result. It only means that the order which has been stayed would not be operative from the date of the passing of the stay order and it does not mean that the said order has been wiped out from existence. This means that if an order passed by the Appellate Authority is quashed and the matter is remanded, the result would be that the appeal which had been disposed of by the said order of the Appellate Authority would be restored and it can be said to be pending before the Appellate Authority after the quashing of the order of the Appellate Authority. The same cannot be said with regard to an order staying the operation of the order of the Appellate Authority because in spite of the said order, the order of the Appellate Authority continues to exist in law and so long as it exists, it cannot be said that the appeal which has been disposed of by the said order has not been disposed of and is still pending...........' 37. In the light of the decision in Shree Chamundi Mopeds Ltd., (cited supra), contention of the appellants to the contra is rejected. 38. Giving due consideration to the pleadings, submissions, and the material on record, we do not think, the appellants have made out a case for interference with the judgment of the learned Single Judge, there being no jurisdictional error or other legal infirmities justifying us to do so. Therefore, we are not inclined to entertain this writ appeal at this stage. However, we make it clear that the reimbursement of tuition fee should be at par with the SC/ST students, admitted in Government or other private educational institutions, through the LBS Centre. Hence, the claim of the management or students, as the case may be, should not exceed the fee fixed by the Government in the particular class of education. The entire exercise shall be completed, within a period of four months from the date of receipt of a certified copy of this judgment. Writ appeal is dismissed.