State of J&K v. Triloki Nath Khosa, (1974) 1 SCC 19 explained, a classification for the purpose of Article 14 based on any criteria (as the present minimum age criteria undoubtedly is), must be based on a distinct characteristic, having a rational nexus with the object of the norm, or the law. Similarly, Mohd. Shujat Ali v. Union of India, (1975) 3 SCC 76 cautioned against over-classification, based on artificial distinctions between two categories falling within the same class, in matters of public employment.
In present case, the rule has the effect of excluding deserving candidates, without subserving any discernible public policy or goal. Thus, the classification is based on no justifiable rationale; nor can it be said that the age criterion has some nexus with the object sought to be achieved, such as greater efficiency or experience.
The qualification of a minimum age of 50 years as essential for appointment, is discriminatory because it is neither shown to have a rational nexus with the object sought to be achieved, i.e. appointing the most meritorious candidates; nor is it shown to be based on any empirical study or data that such older candidates fare better, or that younger candidates with more relevant experience would not be as good. It is plain and simple, discrimination based on age. The criterion (of minimum 50 years of age) is virtually “picked out from a hat” and wholly arbitrary.
– Hon’ble Justice S. Ravindra Bhat, Madras Bar Association v. Union of India, [Writ Petition (Civil) No. 502 of 2021].
In a given case, Article 14 may permit a valid classification. However, a classification to be followed must necessarily satisfy two tests. First, distinguishing rationale has to be based on a just objective and secondly, choice of differentiating one set of persons from another must have a reasonable nexus to objects sought to be achieved.
– Hon’ble Justice M.R. Shah, Modified Voluntary Retirement Scheme, 2002 v. National Textile Corporation Limited, [Civil Appeal No. 6260-61 of 2021] decided on 26.10.2021.
It is to be noted, ‘equality’ under Articles 15 and 16 could not have a different content from ‘equality’ under Article 14 [State of Kerala v. N.M Thomas, (1976) 2 SCC 310]. If object of legislation is discriminatory, then ‘classification’ being reasonable and rationally related to object sought to be achieved is immaterial [Subramanian Swamy v. Director, Central Bureau of Investigation, (2014) 8 SCC 682].
– Hon’ble Justice L. Nageswara Rao, Pattali Makkal Katchi v. A. Mayilerumperumal, [Civil Appeal No. 2600 of 2022] decided on 31.03.2022.
The obligation to address – as a measure of public interest – on ill-effects of rise in cost of living, should be discharged on a periodic basis. Yet, there cannot be any straitjacket formula as to when such pay revisions are to be made and to what extent revisions should take place. As a general practice, Union and State Governments have been undertaking such exercises each decade.
Court in State of J&K v. Triloki Nath Khosa, (1974) 1 SCC 19 held, “discrimination is essence of classification and does violence to constitutional guarantee of equality only if it rests on an unreasonable basis.”
In present case, there is no distinction between those who retired (or died in service) before 29.03.2010 and those who continued in service and were given pay revision. However, VRS employees cannot claim parity. Likewise, those, who ceased to be in employment for reason of termination, would not be entitled to benefit of pay revision.
– Hon’ble Justice S. Ravindra Bhat, Maharashtra State Financial Corporation Ex-Employees Association v. State of Maharashtra, [Civil Appeal No. 778 of 2023] decided on 02.02.2023.