Sub-categorisation of Scheduled Castes |

Sub-categorisation of Scheduled Castes


∙ The Union government has formed a committee to ensure equitable distribution of benefits to Scheduled Castes (SCs) across the country.

∙ The sub-categorisation of SCs comes after the Prime Minister’s promise to look into the demand raised by the Madiga community of Telangana.

Sub-Categorisation within Scheduled Castes

∙ It is to identify and help the most backward among the SCs.

∙ In the last two decades, multiple states like Punjab, Bihar, and Tamil Nadu have tried to bring in reservation laws at the state level to sub-categorise SCs.

∙ In the last two decades, States like Punjab, Bihar, and Tamil Nadu have tried to bring in reservation laws at the State level in a bid to sub-categorise Scheduled Castes.

Legality of Sub-categorisation

∙ E. V. Chinnaiah v State of Andhra Pradesh (2004): The Supreme Court through its 5-Judge Bench held that once a community is included in the Presidential List for Scheduled Castes under Article 341 of the Constitution, they become part of a single larger class of people, casting a wide net for the purposes of reservation.

∙ It held that the State did not have the legislative power to create sub-classifications within this single class and that such an action would violate the Right to Equality.

∙ However, all plans are held up in courts as the Supreme Court forms its larger Constitution Bench (in Davinder Singh Case) to decide the matter.

∙ The issue ofsub-classification in reservations has been pending before a 7-Judge Constitution Bench for nearly two years without a hearing.

Arguments favouring sub-categorisation within Scheduled Castes

∙ Graded Inequalities: The principal argument for sub-categorisation of SCs has been the graded inequalities among SC communities.

∙ The thrust of it has been that even among the marginalised, there are communities that have lesser access to basic facilities.

∙ Unequal Representation: Some communities are more backward and have less representation than others.

∙ For instance, the Madiga community has claimed that the benefits, including that of reservation, meant for the SC category had been cornered by the Mala community, with the Madigas being left out.

∙ Legal Standpoint: A five-judge Bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra has affirmed the competence of the States to give preferential treatment to the weakest among the Scheduled Castes without depriving other castes of any benefit.

∙ The Court has noted that the Scheduled Castes list contains many castes and cannot be treated as a homogeneous group.

∙ Equitable Distribution of Benefits: The Union government has formed a committee of Secretaries to evaluate and work out a method for the equitable distribution of benefits, schemes, and initiatives to the most backward communities amongst the over 1,200 Scheduled Castes across the country.

Arguments against sub-categorisation within Scheduled Castes

∙ These are primarily based on the legal and practical challenges associated with it.

∙ Legal Challenges: The Supreme Court held that the State did not have the power to unilaterally sub-categorise communities in the list of SCs or Scheduled Tribes (STs).

∙ The Constitution has provided that these lists can only be made by Parliament and notified by the President.

∙ Data of socio-economic status: The population data related to SC, ST, and OBC categories are not updated since the 2011 census.

∙ It hampers the objective and scientific basis for sub-categorisation.

∙ Untouchability: The social and educational backwardness cannot be applied to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. The special treatment is given to the SCs due to untouchability with which they have suffered since ages.


∙ The Constitution of India does not prohibit the Parliament to sub-categorise SCs but it needs to justify by the government that this move would be a 100% count of all castes – a caste census of each community and sub-community and theirrespective socio-economic data.

∙ The government should focus on the equitable distribution of benefits, schemes and initiatives to SCs population in India, as mandated by the Constitution and other Statutory provisions.

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