Unchartered Ocean of Policy Decision IV

A mere differential treatment on its own cannot be termed as an anathema to Article 14.

When there is a reasonable basis for a classification adopted by taking note of exigencies and diverse situations, Court is not expected to insist on absolute equality by taking a rigid and pedantic view as against a pragmatic one.

When differentiation is clearly distinguishable with adequate demarcation duly identified, object of Article 14 gets satisfied. A valid classification is nothing but a valid discrimination.

When two identified groups are not equal, certainly they cannot be treated as a homogeneous group. A reasonable classification certainly would not injure equality enshrined under Article 14. An interference would only be called for, on Court being convinced: a classification causes inequality among similarly placed persons. As long as it does not smack of inherent arbitrariness and conforms to justice and fair play, there may not be any reason to interfere with it.

Hon’ble Justice M.M. Sundresh, State of Uttarakhand v. Sudhir Budakoti, [Civil Appeal No. 2661 of 2015].

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We need to remind ourselves, dictum of this Court in Rustom Cavasjee Cooper v. Union of India, (1970) 1 SCC 248 and also R.K. Garg v. Union of India, (1981) 4 SCC 675. It is not for Court to consider relative merits of different political theories or economic policies. Being troubled with crudities, inequities, uncertainties or possibility of abuse cannot strike down an economic legislation.

Hon’ble Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, Noel Harper v. Union of India, [Writ Petition (Civil) No. 566 of 2021] decided on 08.04.2022.

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We are tempted to quote Majority View in R.K. Garg v. Union of India, (1981) 4 SCC 675.

“Another rule of equal importance is, laws relating to economic activities should be viewed with greater latitude than laws touching civil rights such as freedom of speech, religion et cetera. It has been said by no less a person than Holmes J, Legislature should be allowed some play in the joints, because it has to deal with complex problems which do not admit of solution through any doctrinaire or strait-jacket formula and this is particularly true in case of legislation dealing with economic matters, where, having regard to nature of problems required to be dealt with, greater play in the joints has to be allowed to Legislature.

Court should feel more inclined to give judicial deference to legislative judgment in field of economic regulation than in other areas where fundamental human rights are involved. Nowhere has this admonition been more felicitously expressed than in Morey v. Doud, 354 U.S. 457 (1957).”

In grant of exemptions in tax matters, latitude has to be given to decision making. Ultimately, it is also a matter of policy. We will have to show judicial self-restraint in this case.

Hon’ble Justice Abhay S. Oka, All India Haj Umrah Tour Organizer Association, Mumbai v. Union of India, [Writ Petition (Civil) No. 755 of 2020] decided on 26.07.2022.