Sub groups among SCs/STs could be a reality; power given to states.

by Harsha Prakash Mazumdar

1st September 2020

The Supreme Court of India.

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New Delhi: The supreme court on Thursday countered a verdict made by its constitution bench back in 2004 which ruled against giving preferential treatment to certain sub- castes within the Scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. A Five judge Bench of the Supreme Court headed by Justice Arun Mishra and comprising Justice Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran, MR Shah and Aniruddha Bose held that states shall be able to classify and make further reservations for sub- castes within SC and ST. The bench ruled that making reservations for the sub- castes within SCs/STs will not be in violation of Articles 341(2), 342 and 342A of the constitution as none of the enlisted castes will be denied the advantages of reservation.

“The question is how to trickle down the benefit to the bottom rung. It is clear that caste, occupation, and poverty are interwoven. The State cannot be deprived of the power to take care of the qualitative and quantitative difference between different classes... to take ameliorative measures,” Justice Mishra wrote on behalf of the Constitution Bench.

In the 78-page judgement of the bench, Justice Mishra stated that Scheduled Castes and Tribes in the Central list don’t make a uniform group and the adequate provisions of reservation haven’t efficiently gone down to the poorest of the poor, those who need it the most. The bench also notes that once the power is given to the state, it can then sub-categorise the castes, as a result of which, the sub- castes that had not been able to get the benefits earlier, will now be able to do so with ease.

“When reservation creates inequalities within the reserved castes itself, it is required to be taken care of by the State by making sub-classification so that State largesse does not concentrate in few hands and equal justice is provided to all,” Justice Mishra added. The bench contradicted a 2004 judgement delivered by another bench of 5 judges in the E.V. Chinnaiah case.

The case showed up in front of the apex court when the Punjab government appealed against a 2010 judgement by the Punjab and Haryana high court regarding Section 4(5) of the Punjab Scheduled Caste and Backward Classes (Reservation in Services) Act, 2006, which provided for ‘first preference’ to Balmikis and Mazhabi Sikhs for Scheduled Caste reservations in public services.

Sources: The Hindu, The New Indian Express.

Edited by Sagarika Satapathy.

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