What do you understand by the Test of Reasonable Classification? While keeping recent Supreme Court Judgement in focus, critically analyze the liquor policy of Kerala state government.

Article 14 says that state shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India. However, this article does not mean that all laws must be general in character or that the same laws should apply to all persons or that every law must have universal application. This is because all persons are not, by nature, attainment or circumstances in the same positions. Thus, state can treat different persons in differently if circumstances justify such treatment. Supreme Court in various judgements has maintained necessity of reasonable classification for the society to progress. However, such a classification needs to pass the test of reasonable classification. This test implies that classification to be reasonable should fulfil the following test:

  • It should not be arbitrary, artificial or evasive. It should be based on an intelligible differentia, some real and substantial distinction, which distinguishes persons or things grouped together in the class from others left out of it.
  • The differentia adopted on the basis of classification must have a rational or reasonable nexus with the object sought to be achieved by the statute in question.

The Kerala liquor policy classifies the hotels on the basis of their relative offering of luxuries. In my view, this did not constitute an intelligible differentia between two classes of things. Further, in its argument, state government supports its special treatment to five-star hotels for promotion of tourism. Ironically, the Supreme Court has also accepted this excuse. Given that half of alcohol consumption in India is unrecorded; such a policy might not be the best solution.

Question for UPSC Mains:
What do you understand by the Test of Reasonable Classification? While keeping recent Supreme Court Judgement in focus, critically analyze the liquor policy of Kerala state government.

Published: February 4, 2016 | Modified:June 27, 2019

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