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Sub-categorisation: A key to social upliftment

  • Published
    15th Nov, 2023
  • PM Modi announces sub-categorization of Madiga community withing the Schedule Caste category.

What is sub-categorization?

  • States have argued that among the SCs, there are some that remain under-represented despite reservation in comparison to other SCs.
  • This inequality within the SCs is underlined in many reports.
  • This has been addressed by framing special quotas for the under-represented.
  • In Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Bihar, special quotas were introduced for the most vulnerable Dalits.
  • In 2000, the Andhra Pradesh legislature passed a law reorganising 57 SCs into sub-groups.
  • It split the 15% SC quota in educational institutions and government jobs in proportion to their population.
  • However, this law was declared unconstitutional in the 2005 Supreme Court ruling.
  • This ruling held that the states did not have the power to tinker with the Presidential list that identifies SCs and STs.

What is President’s List on SCs and STs?

As per Article 341 of the Constitution, those castes notified by the President are called SCs and STs.

This is called the Presidential list of the SCs and STs.

A caste notified as SC in one state may not be a SC in another state.

No community has been specified as SC in Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland, and Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep.

What are the grounds for sub-categorisation?

  • The basis of special protections for SCs comes from the fact that all these castes suffered social inequity.
  • Untouchability was practised against all these castes irrespective of economic, education and other such factors.
  • However, the Court has engaged with the argument on whether the benefits of reservation have trickled down to the weakest of the weak.
  • 2018 ruling- The concept of “creamy layer" was applied to promote the SCs for the first time.

What is creamy layer?

This concept puts an income ceiling on those eligible for reservation.

  • The Supreme Court upheld this application to SCs in 2018.
  • The central government has sought a review of the 2018 verdict and the case is currently pending.
  • Punjab’s law applies a creamy layer for SCs, STs in reverse - by giving preference to Balmikis and Mazhabi Sikhs.
  • 2005 ruling- The court had held that special protection of SCs is based on the premise that all SCs must collectively enjoy the benefits of reservation regardless of inter­se inequality.
  • This is because the protection is not based on educational, economic or other such factors but solely on those who suffered untouchability.
  • The court also had held that merely giving preference does not amount to inclusion or exclusion of any caste in the list.
  • State’s argument- The states have argued that the classification is done for a certain reason and does not violate the right to equality.
  • The reason they have given is that the categorisation would achieve equitable representation of all SCs in government service.

What are the arguments against sub-categorisation?

  • Untouchability- The argument is that the test of social and educational backwardness cannot be applied to SCs and STs.
  • The special treatment is given to the SCs due to untouchability with which they suffer.
  • Vote-bank- The petitioner’s argument against allowing states to change the proportion of reservation is based on the fact that such decision would be taken to appease vote-banks.
  • A President’s list was envisaged to protect from such arbitrary change.
  • Jarnail Singh case- The court held that the objective of reservation is to ensure that all backward classes march hand in hand.
  • It added that this objective will not be ensured if only a select few get all the coveted services of the government.
  • In the current case, the court relied on this case’s ruling to buttress the point that social inequities exist even among SCs.
  • However, since that ruling is pending for review, the petitioners argued against relying on it.
  • The court ruled that the constitutional goal of social transformation cannot be achieved without taking into account changing social realities.
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