While hearing Civil Appeal No. 858 of 2017 (Arising out of SLP (C) No. 21587 of 2013), titled Union of India & Ors Vs. M. Selvakumar & Anr., a bench of Hon'ble Supreme Court comprising Sh. Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Sh. Justice Ashok Bhushan, in its judgement dated 24 January 2017 has observed, "It is not in the domain of the courts to embark upon an inquiry as to whether a particular public policy is wise and acceptable or whether the better policy could be evolved. The court can only interfere if the policy framed is absolutely capricious and non-informed by reasons, or totally arbitrary, offending the basic requirement of the Article 14 (right to equality) of the Constitution."
The bench headed by Ranjan Gogoi set aside the judgement of the Madras High Court and the view taken by Delhi High Court that "increasing the number of attempts for Physically Handicapped candidates belonging to General Category from 4 to 7 with effect from the 2007 Examination and not proportionally increasing the number of attempts for Physically Handicapped candidates belonging to OBC Category from 7 to 10, is discriminatory and arbitrary".
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It is pertinent to note that the Madras High Court in its order passed on 24.01.2012 in Writ Petition (C) No. 18705 of 2010 titled M. Selvakumar versus Central Administrative Tribunal and Others had discussed in detail clause-3 (iv) of the Notification for CSE 2008 and specifically discussed the provision which states that physically handicapped will get as many attempts as are available to other non-physically handicapped candidates of his or her community, subject to the condition that physically handicapped candidates belonging to the general category shall be eligible for 07 attempts. The High Court had further observed that the number of attempts for the physically handicapped persons in the general category has been increased from four to seven. However, the same benefit has not been proportionally extended to the PH candidates in the OBC community. Considering this to be inconsistent with Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution of India the petitioner M Selvakumar was given relaxation in the number of attempts as had been granted to the PH candidates belonging to general category. However, there were no specific direction of the Madras High Court to quash clause-3 of the notification nor there was any direction to the respondents to make necessary changes in the Rules for future examinations.
The SC bench said "the horizontal reservation and relaxation for Physically Handicapped Category candidates for Civil Services Examination, is a matter of Governmental policy and the Government after considering the relevant materials have extended relaxation and concessions to the Physically Handicapped candidates belonging to the Reserved Category as well as General Category.
The verdict came on appeal filed by the Union of India challenging two judgements of the high courts which allowed Physically Handicapped students of OBC to avail 10 attempts instead of 7 attempts in the Civil Services Examination.
Both the High Court's had held that since the attempts for Physically Handicapped candidates belonging to General Category have been increased from 4 to 7 with effect from 2007 Civil Services Examination, there should be proportionate increase in attempts to be taken by Physically Handicapped Candidates belonging to the OBC Category.
The apex court said when the attempts for exams of Physically Handicapped candidates of OBC Category as well as those of in General Category are made equal, there is no question of discrimination as the candidate belonging to OBC Category has already been given ten years relaxation in age which give them a relaxation of three more years.
"The present case is not a case of treating unequals as equal. It is a case of extending concessions and relaxations to the physically handicapped candidates belonging to general category as well as physically handicapped belonging to OBC category. Physically handicapped category is a category in itself, a person who is physically handicapped, be it physically handicapped of a general category or OBC category, suffering from similar disability has to be treated alike in extending the relaxation and concessions," noted the bench in its judgment.
Both being provided 7 attempts to appear in Civil Services Examination, no discrimination or arbitrariness can be found in the above scenario", the bench concluded.