Delhi HC rejects plea against higher priority to ex-servicemen’s wards in army quota admissions

The Delhi High Court Monday dismissed a plea challenging the Centre’s decision to give a higher priority to wards of ex-servicemen than those of serving personnel in admission to various educational institutions under army quota of five per cent.

A bench of Justices Suresh Kumar Kait and Neena Bansal Krishna, while dealing with the petition by the husband of a serving lieutenant colonel in the Indian Army, said no arbitrariness or mala fide was brought forth in the policy which provided nine categories of “Priority” for wards and wives of former and serving personnel for providing reservation in medical/professional/non-professional courses throughout the country.

There was no ground to interfere and it is a policy decision of the Centre to define how the reservation in different categories shall be availed, the bench said.

“The horizontal utilization of reservation quota is essentially determined by the Government Order F.No.6(1)/2017/D(Res.II) dated 21.05.2018. No arbitrariness or mala fide has been brought forth in the said policy.

“We do not find any ground to interfere with the Government Order dated 21.05.2018 or to reshuffle the Priority categories as provided therein. The petition is accordingly dismissed,” the court ruled.

The petitioner, whose son aspired to pursue BTech, contended that the majority of benefits under the army quota for engineering colleges in the city had been taken away by Priority-VI category i.e. “Wards of Ex-servicemen” and therefore no seats were left for others, especially Priority-VIII i.e. “Wards of Serving Personnel”.

The petitioner thus urged the court to quash the 2018 decision introducing the categories of priorities and give directions to the authorities to treat/include Priority-VIII above Priority-VI or consider both of them at the same level.

Rejecting the plea, the court observed that the category of “Wards of Serving Personnel” was added only to ensure that the benefit of reservation under the quota created for the wives and wards of ex-servicemen or gallantry award holders was fully exhausted and did not go unutilized.

“The entire scheme of Priority list shows that the benefit of reservations was essentially intended for the widows and wards of defence personnel who have either been killed or boarded out on account of disability attributable to military services. In Category V and in Category VII, wards and wives respectively of Ex-Servicemen as well as serving personnel have also been given the benefit of being placed in Priority V and Priority VII,” the court said.

“It has been explained by the respondent No.1 (Centre) in the counter-affidavit that essentially the Government of India had taken a decision to give the benefit to the wives and wards of ex-servicemen or Gallantry Award holders, but in the scheme of things, it was found that some vacancies still remained vacant after giving the benefit to the wards of all the categories,” it added.

The court said that in the present case, it was not as if the wards of serving personnel were denied the benefit of reservations and the government policy has been duly incorporated in the entrance examination for admission to BTech courses i.e. JEE.

“It is a policy decision taken by the Government of India and Ministry of Defence to define the manner in which the reservations by the wards of Army personnel in different categories shall be availed. There is neither any arbitrariness, unreasonableness or mala fide brought forth in the categorization of the wards in Priority VI and Priority VIII,” the court stated.

On May 21, 2018, the Centre made nine categories of “Priority” for providing reservation in the medical/professional/non-professional courses throughout the country under the Army quota of five per cent.

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Highest priority was awarded to “Wards of Defence Personnel Killed in action”, followed by “Wards of serving Defence Personnel disabled in action” and “Wards of Defence Personnel who died in peace time with death attributable to Military”.

The petitioner argued that there was no intelligible differentia for placing the wards of serving personnel in a category below the wards of ex-servicemen.

It was contended that ex-servicemen have not only retired from their services and are no longer serving the nation but are also getting other benefits like pensions. The serving personnel, on the other hand, are continuing to face the hardships of service which percolate to their wards as on account of their service contingencies the parents are not able to be equally involved in the education of the wards, the petition added.

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