Compilation of case laws involving classification

A list of case laws wherein discrimination meted out to classes of people was
rationalized by the courts and upheld or struck down with reason based on the
twin test and other factors


Brief facts: Constitutional validity of Section 30 of the Punjab Excise Act, 1914,
prohibiting employment of “any man under the age of 25 years” or “any woman” in any
part of such premises in which liquor or intoxicating drug is consumed by the public was
the question involved. It was alleged to be discriminatory in so far as it differentiated on
the basis of age and sex.

The court disallowed the discrimination to pass based on the art. 15 defence that it was
not based solely on ‘sex’ and that included another factor, but the court stuck to a
transformative reading of the constitution to hold that the effect of the provision would
be to discriminate and therefore no matter however many tests of classification it passed
on paper, it would fail to create substantive equality.
In striking down the classification as discriminatory and invalid, the court observed the

26. When a discrimination is sought to be made on the purported ground of
classification, such classification must be founded on a rational criterion. The criteria
which in absence of any constitutional provision and, it will bear repetition to state,
having regard to the societal conditions as they prevailed in early 20th century, may not
be a rational criterion in the 21st century. In the early 20th century, the hospitality sector
was not open to women in general. In the last 60 years, women in India have gained entry
in all spheres of public life. They have also been representing people at grassroot
democracy. They are now employed as drivers of heavy transport vehicles, conductors of
service carriages, pilots, et. al. Women can be seen to be occupying Class IV posts to the
post of a Chief Executive Officer of a multinational company. They are now widely
accepted both in police as also army services…

(2019) 9 SCC 558

Brief facts: Regulation 4(3) of the Rajasthan State Road Transport Corporation
Compassionate Appointment Regulations, 2010 prescribed that for an employee who dies
in service involving a vehicle owned by the appellants, the dependants may not claim
compassionate appointment once they had recovered compensation, while no such
restriction existed for employees who died in a manner not involving a vehicle of the
appellant corporation.
The court upheld the classification; relevant analysis has been extracted here:

7. The Corporation has carved out two classes of dependants of the deceased
employees in respect of claims for compassionate appointment. The reason for the
disqualification of the dependants of an employee who died in an accident involving the
vehicle of the Corporation is to avoid extra burden on the appellant Corporation. In such
cases, the appellant Corporation has to pay the compensation under the Act and also to
provide compassionate appointment to the dependants of the deceased employee. In a
case where the vehicle of the appellant Corporation is not involved in the accident, the
compensation under the Act is not the liability of the appellant Corporation. It cannot be
said that the dependants of an employee who claim both compensation under the Act and
compassionate appointment from the appellant Corporation are on the same footing as
the dependants of the deceased employee who claim under the Act against a private owner
or an insurance company, and compassionate appointment from appellant Corporation

8. The dependants of a deceased employee who claim compensation from the
Corporation under the Act and compassionate appointment from the appellant
Corporation form a separate class. It is well settled that though Article 14 forbids class
legislation, it does not forbid reasonable classification for the purposes of legislation.
When any impugned rule or statutory provision is assailed on the ground that it
contravenes Article 14, its validity can be sustained if two tests are satisfied. The first test
is that the classification on which it is founded must be based on an intelligible differentia
which distinguishes persons or things grouped together from others left out of the group;
and the second test is that the differentia in question must have a reasonable relation to
the object sought to be achieved by the rule or statutory provision in question. [State of
Mysore v. P. Narasinga Rao, (1968) 1 SCR 407]

9. Having held that the classification of the two categories of dependants of deceased
employees is reasonable, what remains to be examined is whether there is a rationale
nexus of the classification with the objective sought to be achieved by Regulation 4(3).
The intention with which Regulation 4(3) is made is to obviate the liability of the
Corporation in payment of compensation under the Act and to provide compassionate
appointment to the same person. We find that there is a rational nexus between the basis
of classification and the object sought to be achieved by the Regulation.

Brief facts: Dianne Rawlinson sought employment with the Alabama Board of
Corrections as a prison guard, called in Alabama as a ‘correctional counselor.’ She was
refused employment because she failed to meet the minimum 120-pound weight
requirement established by an Alabama statute. The statute also establishes a height
minimum of 5 feet 2 inches. After her application was rejected because of her weight,
Rawlinson filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and after
various stages of litigation, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the classification as
having no basis to the object at hand.
The relevant parts of the judgement have been extracted below:
9. “… to establish a prima facie case of discrimination, a plaintiff need only show that
the facially neutral standards in question select applicants for hire in a significantly
discriminatory pattern. Once it is thus shown that the employment standards are
discriminatory in effect, the employer must meet ‘the burden of showing that any given
requirement (has) . . . a manifest relationship to the employment in question.’ [Griggs v.
Duke Power Co.,]. If the employer proves that the challenged requirements are job
related, the plaintiff may then show that other selection devices without a similar
discriminatory effect would also ‘serve the employer’s legitimate interest in ‘efficient and
trustworthy workmanship.”
10. “Although women 14 years of age or older compose 52.75% of the Alabama
population and 36.89% of its total labour force, they hold only 12.9% of its correctional
counselor positions. In considering the effect of the minimum height and weight
standards on this disparity in rate of hiring between the sexes, the District Court found
that the 5*2” requirement would operate to exclude 33.29% of the women in the United
States between the ages of 18-79, while excluding only 1.28% of men between the same
ages. The 120-pound weight restriction would exclude 22.29% of the women and 2.35%
of the men in this age group. When the height and weight restrictions are combined,
Alabama’s statutory standards would exclude 41.13% of the female population while
excluding less than 1% of the male population…”
13. We turn, therefore, to the appellants’ argument that they have rebutted the prima
facie case of discrimination by showing that the height and weight requirements are job
related. These requirements, they say, have a relationship to strength, a sufficient but
unspecified amount of which is essential to effective job performance as a correctional
counselor. In the District Court, however, the appellants produced no evidence
correlating the height and weight requirements with the requisite amount of strength
thought essential to good job performance. Indeed, they failed to offer evidence of any
kind in specific justification of the statutory standards.”
14. If the job-related quality that the appellants identify is bona fide, their purpose
could be achieved by adopting and validating a test for applicants that measures strength
directly. Such a test, fairly administered, would fully satisfy the standards of Title VII
because it would be one that ‘measure(s) the person for the job and not the person in the
abstract.’ [Griggs v. Duke Power Co., 401 U.S., at 436, 91 S.Ct., at 856]. But nothing in the
present record even approaches such a measurement.
15. For the reasons we have discussed, the District Court was not in error in holding
that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, prohibits application of the
statutory height and weight requirements to Rawlinson and the class she represents.
Brief facts: Here, the challenge was to the Constitution (One Hundred and Third
Amendment) Act, 2019, whereby the parliament amended Articles 15 and 16 of the
Constitution of India by adding two new clauses viz., clause (6) to Article 15 with
Explanation and clause (6) to Article 16; and thereby, the State had been empowered,
inter alia, to provide for a maximum of 10%. reservation for “the economically weaker
sections” of citizens other than “the Scheduled Castes”, “the Scheduled Tribes” and the
non-creamy layer of “the Other Backward Classes.
One of the many questions that arose before the court was whether this reservation being
provided on economic and social, educational factors was correct or not, and were the
other backward classes liable to be included in these reserved categories.
Holding by a majority of 3:2, the constitutional bench held that such exclusion did not
constitute discrimination and was in fact, necessary to maintain equality in society.
78.3. Moreover, the benefit of reservation avails to the excluded classes/castes under
the existing clauses of Articles 15 and 16; and by the amendment in question, the quota
earmarked for them is not depleted in any manner.
79. The amendment in question makes a reasonable classification between
“economically weaker sections” and other weaker sections, who are already mentioned in
Articles 15(4), 15(5) and 16(4) of the Constitution and are entitled to avail the benefits of
reservation thereunder. The moment there is a vertical reservation, exclusion is the vital
requisite to provide benefit to the target group. In fact, the affirmative action of
reservation for a particular target group, to achieve its desired results, has to be carved
out by exclusion of others. The same principle has been applied for the affirmative action
of reservation qua the groups of SEBCs, OBCs, SCs, and STs. Each of them takes
reservation in their vertical column in exclusion of others. But for this exclusion, the
purported affirmative action for a particular class or group would be congenitally
deformative and shall fail at its inception. Therefore, the claim of any particular class or
section against its exclusion from the affirmative action of reservation in favour of EWS
has to be rejected.
80. In fact, it follows as a necessary corollary to the discussion in the preceding
segments of this judgment that looking to the purpose and the objective of the present
affirmative action, that is, reservation for the benefit of economically weaker sections, the
other classes, who are already availing the benefit of affirmative action of reservation by
virtue of Articles 15(4), 15(5) and 16(4), are required to be kept out of the benefits of EWS
reservation in Articles 15(6) and 16(6). It could easily be seen that but for this exclusion,
the entire balance of the general principles of equality and compensatory discrimination
would be disturbed, with extra or excessive advantage being given to the classes already
availing the benefit under Articles 15(4), 15(5) and 16(4). In other words, sans such
exclusion, reservation by way of the amendment in question would only lead to an
incongruous and constitutionally invalid situation.
81. Putting it in other words, the classes who are already the recipient of, and
beneficiary of, compensatory discrimination by virtue of Articles 15(4), 15(5) and 16(4),
cannot justifiably raise the grievance that in another set of compensatory discrimination
for another class, they have been excluded.
Brief facts: The Tamil Nadu Advocates’ Welfare Fund Act denied benefits on cessation
of practice and other terminal benefits to advocates who had already retired from service
and were in possession of pension etc., while this was not the case with advocates who
had enrolled and practiced ever since completion of their education.
The court upheld this distinction too, and the relevant analysis has been extracted here:
19. The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Tamil Nadu Welfare Fund Act clearly
states that the Welfare Fund is intended to provide welfare to the advocates and to provide
them retirement benefits. The Objects and Reasons of the Tamil Nadu Advocates’ Welfare
Fund Act reads as under:
Tamil Nadu Advocates’ Welfare Fund Act, 1987 (Tamil Nadu Act 49 of 1987)
“The constitution of a Welfare Fund for the payment of retirement benefits to the
advocates in the State of Tamil Nadu and for conferring on them the benefits
connected therewith or incidental thereto has been engaging the attention of this
Government for quite some time. The Government have decided to constitute a fund
called the Tamil Nadu Advocates Welfare Fund in the State to provide for payment
of retirement benefits to the advocates in the State and for conferring on them the
benefits connected therewith or incidental thereto.”
28. The various welfare fund schemes are in actuality intended for the benefit of those
who are in the greatest need of them. The lawyers, straight after their enrolment, who join
the legal profession with high hopes and expectations and dedicate their whole lives to
the professions are the real deservers. Lawyers who enrol themselves after their
retirement from government services and continue to receive pension and other terminal
benefits, who basically join this field in search of greener pastures in the evening of their
lives cannot and should not be equated with those who have devoted their whole lives to
the profession. For these retired persons, some amount of financial stability is ensured in
view of the pension and terminal benefits and making them eligible for lump sum welfare
fund under the Act would actually amount to double benefits. Therefore, in our
considered view, the classification of lawyers into these two categories is a reasonable
classification having a nexus with the object of the Act.
29. Furthermore, it is also to be noted that in view of their being placed differently than
the class of lawyers who chose this profession as the sole means of their livelihood, it can
reasonably be discerned that the retired persons form a separate class. As noticed earlier,
the object of the Act is to provide for the constitution of a Welfare Fund for the benefit of
advocates on cessation of practice. As per Section 3(2)(d) any grant made by the
Government to the welfare fund is one of the sources of the Advocates’ Welfare Fund. The
retired employees are already in receipt of pension from the Government or other
employer and to make them get another retiral benefit from the Advocates’ Welfare Fund
would amount to double benefit and they are rightly excluded from the benefit of the lump
sum amount of the welfare fund.
Brief facts: A State legislation sought to provide housing and accommodation to all the
retired chief ministers of Gujarat. This was taken to court on the grounds that it leads to
an unfair distribution of public property and violates equality by allowing benefits based
on a flawed classification
This distinction was struck down and the following analysis was meted out:
39. Undoubtedly, Section 4(3) of the 1981 Act would have the effect of creating a
separate class of citizens for conferment of benefits by way of distribution of public
property on the basis of the previous public office held by them. Once such persons demit
the public office earlier held by them there is nothing to distinguish them from the
common man. The public office held by them becomes a matter of history and, therefore,
cannot form the basis of a reasonable classification to categorise previous holders of
public office as a special category of persons entitled to the benefit of special privileges.
The test of reasonable classification, therefore, has to fail. Not only that the legislation i.e.
Section 4(3) of the 1981 Act recognising former holders of public office as a special class
of citizens, viewed in the aforesaid context, would appear to be arbitrary and
discriminatory thereby violating the equality clause. It is a legislative exercise based on
irrelevant and legally unacceptable considerations, unsupported by any constitutional
SCC 575
Brief facts: Typist-cum-Computer clerks appointed by the respondents before and after
November, 01, 1966 were being treated differentially. Those appointed before were being
subject to 6.5 hours of work in a day (excluding a half hour lunch break) while those
appointed after were being made to work for 7.5 hours per day (excluding a half hour
lunch break).
The court upheld the classification and observed the following:
26. In the present case, as we have noted, the purpose of the classification was to make
the activities of the Port competitive and efficient. With the introduction of privatisation
and setting up private ports, the respondent had to face competition. Also, it wanted to
rationalise its activities by having uniform working hours for its indoor and outdoor
establishment employees, while at the same time avoiding labour disputes with
employees appointed before 1-11-1996. In the modern world businesses have to face
competition with other businesses. To do so they may have to have longer working hours
and introduce efficiency, while avoiding labour disputes. Looked at from this point of view
the classification in question is clearly reasonable as it satisfies the test laid down above.
28. Coming back to the present case, the object of the new policy adopted by the
respondent Port was to bring about uniformity in the working hours of the personnel
working on the indoor and outdoor establishment. For achieving that purpose, the Port
took a policy decision to lay down a condition in the appointment orders of the personnel
recruited on indoor establishment after 1-11-1996 that they will have to work for eight
hours. For the purpose of classification, the date 1-11-1996 was chosen, because different
duty hours were to be made applicable from the one which were applicable to the existing
personnel working on the indoor establishment in relation to the persons to be employed
after that date. The purpose of this was to make the organisation competitive and efficient.
31. The policy decision of the Port cannot be said to cause any prejudice to the interest of
the personnel recruited after 1-11-1996 because before their recruitment they were clearly
given to understand as to what would be their working hours, in case they accept the
appointment. In our opinion the introduction of the new policy was a bona fide decision
of the Port, and the acceptance of the conditions with open eyes by the appellants and the
recruits after 1-11-1996 means that they can now have no grievance.
Brief facts: The reservation of 28% of vacancies in the posts of Sub-Inspectors in the
Food and Supplies Department for Ex-Servicemen meaning thereby released Army
personnel, was questioned as being opposed to Article 16(1) of the Constitution.
The classification as upheld by the court, while observing as had been laid out in NM
Thomas v. State of Kerala, that “Articles 14, 15 and 16 from part of a string of
constitutional guaranteed rights. These rights supplement each other. Article 16 which
ensures to all citizens equality of opportunity in matters relating to employment is an
incident of guarantee of equality contained in Article 14. Article 16(1) gives effect to
Article 14. Both Articles 14 and 16(1) permit reasonable classification having a nexus to
the objects to be achieved. Under Article 16 there can be a reasonable classification of
the employees in matters relating to employment or appointment.”
The rule of determining validity using the twin test of reasonable classification was
therefore extended to other articles beyond art. 14, and applying that here, the Punjab and
Haryana High Court observed:
10. On the same analogy, it must be said that while the best and the most meritorious
of those seeking appointment under the State should be selected, it is also equally fair and
equitable that a just proportion of the posts should be given to those who, because of a
peculiar handicap, may not stand a chance against those not so handicapped. It would be
an extension of the principle of Article 16(4) to those that do not fall under Article 16(4).
Defence personnel who on account of their service with the Army, the Navy and the Air
Force over the years have lost opportunities for entering Government Service and have
also lost contact with ordinary civilian life, may find it extremely difficult, on
demobilisation, to compete with civilians for civilian jobs, despite the qualities of
discipline, sacrifice, sense of public duty, initiative, loyalty and leadership which they
would have undoubtedly acquired as members of the Defence Forces. The State has an
undoubted obligation to provide employment to Ex-Servicemen who have faithfully
served the interests of the country’s security, ready to risk their lives. The State has an
obligation to protect them from the competition of civilian applicants against whom they
may not stand a chance for reasons already mentioned. The State is, therefore, justified
in classifying them separately as a source of recruitment and reserving posts for them.
Nor, can it be said that efficiency of service will suffer.
Brief facts: This case concerned the right of a female member of the uniformed services
to claim her spouse as a ‘dependent’ for the purposes of obtaining increased quarters
allowances and medical and dental benefits under 37 U.S.C. §§ 401, 403, and 10 U.S.C. §§
1072, 1076, on an equal footing with male members. Under these statutes, a serviceman
may claim his wife as a ‘dependent’ without regard to whether she is in fact dependent
upon him for any part of her support. A servicewoman, on the other hand, may not claim
her husband as a ‘dependent’ under these programs unless he is in fact dependent upon
her for over one-half of his support.
Appellants commenced this suit, contending that, by making this distinction, the statutes
unreasonably discriminate on the basis of sex in violation of the Due Process Clause of
the Fifth Amendment. In essence, appellants asserted that the discriminatory impact of
the statutes is twofold: first, as a procedural matter, a female member is required to
demonstrate her spouse’s dependency, while no such burden is imposed upon male
members; and, second, as a substantive matter, a male member who does not provide
more than one-half of his wife’s support receives benefits, while a similarly situated
female member is denied such benefits.
The defence of ‘administrative convenience’ put forward here by the government, based
off the assumption that it was unlikely for a woman to be supporting her family was
rejected by the court.
Relevant portion of the judgment has been culled out:
18. The sole basis of the classification established in the challenged statutes is the sex
of the individuals involved. Thus, . . . a female member of the uniformed services seeking
to obtain housing and medical benefits for her spouse must prove his dependency in fact,
whereas no such burden is imposed upon male members. In addition, the statutes operate
so as to deny benefits to a female member . . . while at the same time granting such benefits
to a male member who likewise provides less than one-half of his spouse’s support. Thus,
to this extent at least, it may fairly be said that these statutes command ‘dissimilar
treatment for men and women who are . . . similarly situated.’ [Reed v. Reed, 404 U.S., at
77, 92 S.Ct., at 254.] 19. Moreover, the Government concedes that the differential treatment accorded men and
women under these statutes serves no purpose other than mere ‘administrative
convenience.’ In essence, the Government maintains that, as an empirical matter, wives
in our society frequently are dependent upon their husbands, while husbands rarely are
dependent upon their wives. Thus, the Government argues that Congress might
reasonably have concluded that it would be both cheaper and easier simply conclusively
to presume that wives of male members are financially dependent upon their husbands,
while burdening female members with the task of establishing dependency in fact.
20. The Government offers no concrete evidence, however, tending to support its view
that such differential treatment in fact saves the Government any money. . . Here,
however, there is substantial evidence that, if put to the test, many of the wives of male
members would fail to qualify for benefits. . .
21. In any case, our prior decisions make clear that, although efficacious administration
of governmental programs is not without some importance, ‘the Constitution recognizes
higher values than speed and efficiency.’ [Stanley v. Illinois, 405 U.S. 645, 656, 92 S.Ct.
1208, 1215, 31 L.Ed.2d 551 (1972)] . . . We therefore conclude that, by according
differential treatment to male and female members of the uniformed services for the sole
purpose of achieving administrative convenience, the challenged statutes violate the Due
Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment insofar as they require a female member to prove
the dependency of her husband.