Decided on May 01,1953

SHANTHA BAI Respondents


- (1.) This is an appeal by the University of Madras against the judgment of Subba Rao J. in W.P. No. 341 of 1951 and the point for determination is whether the directions issued by the appellant to the affiliated colleges not to admit girl students without obtaining the permission of the Syndicate are valid. For a correct appreciation of the true scope and significance of those directions, it is necessary to state the conditions under which they came to be given. Until recently, the number of girl students who sought higher education in the colleges was inconsiderable and the women's colleges that were in existence were quite ample to provide for their needs. Latterly there has been a large increase in their number and as the existing women-colleges were not sufficient to accommodate them, colleges which were admitting only boys also began to admit girls. Co-education became so general that by 1943 the Syndicate considered it desirable to frame certain rules for regulating the admission of women students in such mixed colleges. Women could be admitted only with the prior sanction of the Syndicate and the maximum number that could be admitted was fixed by the Syndicate on the basis of the amenities and facilities such as separate hostel, playgrounds and the like provided by the college. In 1945 a Commission was appointed in accordance with Section 16 (12) of the Madras University Act to report on the state of higher education and its progress in the State of Madras. The Commission went into the question of women's education and set out its views in Chapter VIII of the report. It noted with gratification that the education of women had advanced rapidly in recent years' and observed that notwithstanding the increase in the number of women's colleges "they have been unable to accommodate the rapidly increasing number of applicants seeking collegiate education in every branch." Next, after referring to the Rules prescribed by the Syndicate in 1943, the report went on to state that "most colleges have not attempted anything more than a nominal compliance with the conditions imposed by the University with regard to common rooms, recreational facilities etc. On the whole, the life of women students in these colleges is handicapped, the atmosphere of freedom necessary for their natural development is lacking as the bulk of the students and almost the whole of the staff ere men. In addition to this it becomes necessary to impose many restraints for the sake of discipline. It is the unanimous opinion of the Commission that men's colleges should be precluded from admitting women to the Intermediate classes. The difficulties, of women students at this stage are such greater because of their age and the time required to get accustomed to the change from school to colleges conditions of life and instruction. To achieve this very desirable object, it is necessary that more women's colleges with the necessary hostel accommodation should be established." Pursuant to the policy enunciated in the report the Syndicate was granting permission for co-education only when they were satisfied that the college had complied with the requisite conditions. It will thus be seen that the restrictions imposed on the admission of girl students in the colleges are not the outcome of any policy of discrimination against them as in the familiar cases of exclusion of the Coloured Races in America. The report of the commission shows that the object of the University is to encourage higher studies among women and that the regulations are intended to ensure a proper and healthy education in conditions of co-education. The grounds for differential treatment of boys and girls are not political, but social. It is as well to bear this aspect of the matter in mind in considering whether the directions given by the University are discriminatory.
(2.) Now, turning to the facts of this case, in 1949 a new college called the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial College was founded in the town of Udipi and affiliated to the University of Madras. While granting affiliation, the Syndicate gave permission for the admission of only 10 girl students in the Junior Intermediate class as a temporary measure for that year and directed that in future no women students should be admitted without the special sanction of the syndicate. On 24-7-1951, the petitioner Shantha Bai applied for admission to the Intermediate course in this college, but her application was refused by the Principal on the ground that girl students would not be admitted, Thereupon, she filed the petition out of which the present appeal arises for the issue of a writ of mandamus against the Principal of the College to admit her to the Intermediate course. The first respondent to this application was the University of Madras and the second, the Principal of the college. The affidavit in support of the petition stated that the second respondent had refused to admit the petitioner as a result of the directions given by the first respondent not to admit women into the college; that those directions were opposed to Section 5(1) of the Madras University Act, 7 of 1923 and that they were also repugnant to Article 15(1) of the Constitution, in that they discriminated against the applicant on the ground of sex and therefore void. On these allegations it was prayed that a writ of mandamus be issued directing the second respondent to admit the petitioner in the college. No relief was claimed against the University of Madras, but its Joinder as the first respondent was obviously with a view to obtain a Judicial determination in its presence that the directions issued by it art not valid. The second respondent appeared by counsel, but did hot contest the application. The University of Madras filed a counter-affidavit stating that the directions given by it were based on considerations of practical convenience and were neither discriminatory nor unjust, that they were not opposed either to Section 15(1) of the Madras University Act or Article 15(1) of the Constitution and that the matter wes governed by Art 29 of the Constitution and not by Article 15(1) that no right of the petitioner had been invaded and that the application was liable to be dismissed.
(3.) The petition was heard by Subba Rao J. He overruled the contention that the directions given by the University were in contravention of Section 5(1) of the Madras University Act 7 of 1923 which so far as it is material is as follows: "No person shall be excluded from admission to any degree or course of study on the sole ground of sex, race (creed, class, or political views.)" He held that "admission to any degree or course of study" in Section 5(1) referred to admission to particular courses of studies such as Law, Medicine, Engineering and the like and not to admission to colleges. He also held following the decision in -- 'King v. Benchers of Lincoln's Inn', (1825) 107 E. R. 1277 (A), that no writ of mandamus could be granted to compel the Principal to admit the petitioner Into the college. He was of the opinion that Article 29 did not exclude the application of Article 15(1); that the directions given by the University were opposed to that Article as discriminatory against the petitioner on the ground of sex and that they were accordingly void. In this view and in view of the fact that the Principal did not oppose the application, Subba Rao J. directed the issue of a mandamus to the second respondent to consider the application of the petitioner without making any discrimination on the ground of sex. The University of Madras prefers this appeal against this decision.;

Click here to view full judgement.
Copyright © Regent Computronics Pvt.Ltd.