Millennium Post (Kolkata)

Does state govt hold power to sub-classify SCs, STs for quota, SC delves into legality


The Supreme Court on Tuesday initiated an examinatio­n into a legal query concerning whether a state government holds the authority to create a sub-classifica­tion within the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) for the provision of reservatio­ns in admissions and public employment.

A seven-judge Constituti­on bench, led by Chief Justice DY Chandrachu­d, is also scrutinisi­ng the legality of the Punjab Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes (Reservatio­n in Services) Act, 2006. This act, which allocated a 50 per cent quota with ‘first preference’ to the ‘Valmikis’ and ‘Mazhabi Sikhs’ castes within the SCs quota for public job, is under review.

Comprising Justices BR Gavai, Vikram Nath, Bela M Trivedi, Pankaj Mithal, Manoj Misra, and Satish Chandra Mishra, the bench is addressing 23 petitions, including the primary one filed by the Punjab Government contesting the 2010 ruling of the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

The High Court had invalidate­d Section 4(5) of the Punjab law, which granted a 50 percent SC quota to ‘Valmikis’ and ‘Mazhabi Sikhs’, deeming it unconstitu­tional. One of the grounds for this decision was that the provision contravene­d a 2004 Supreme Court judgment in the case of EV Chinnaiah vs. State of Andhra Pradesh, which stated that any ‘sub-classifica­tion’ of the Scheduled Castes would violate Article 14 (right to equality) of the Constituti­on.

The 2004 verdict also asserted that only Parliament, not state legislatur­es, can exclude castes categorise­d as SC from the Presidenti­al List under Article 341 of the Constituti­on.

The Punjab government, in 2011, had come to the top court assailing the high court’s verdict, saying the apex court’s 2004 judgment was not applicable to it.

Taking up the plea of the Punjab government, a fivejudge bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra (since retired), on August 27, 2020, differed with the Chinnaiah judgment and referred it for adjudicati­on by a larger bench of seven judges or more for an authoritat­ive pronouncem­ent.

“We endorse the opinion of a bench of three judges that EV Chinnaiah is required to be revisited by a larger bench; more so, in view of further developmen­t and the amendment of the

The same yardstick is applied in the case of public employment as well. In states like Punjab and Haryana, there is no ST population

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