New Delhi, April 23: Noting that “affluents” within the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) are not permitting benefits to “trickle down to the needy”, the Supreme Court Wednesday observed that the government was “duty bound” to revise the SC/ST lists.

The observation was made in the case challenging the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh government’s decision to provide 100 per cent reservation to ST candidates for the post of teachers in schools in the scheduled areas, The Print reported.

The five-judge bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra, Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran, M.R. Shah and Aniruddha Bose observed that “by now, there are affluents and socially and economically advanced classes within Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes”.

“Thus, there is a struggle within, as to worthiness for entitlement within reserved classes of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes and other backward classes,” it added.

The court then agreed with the contention put forth by Rajeev Dhawan, who was appearing on behalf of the Telangana government, that the government is required to revise these lists. However, the court said that this can be done without disturbing the percentage of reservation. This needs to be done “so that benefits trickle down to the needy and are not usurped by those classes who have come up after obtaining the benefits for the last 70 years or after their inclusion in the list”, it said.

It then observed, “The Government is duty bound to undertake such an exercise as observed in Indra Sawhney (supra) and as constitutionally envisaged. The Government to take appropriate steps in this regard.”

The Supreme Court noted that Article 341(1) of the Constitution allows the President, after consultation with the Governor, to specify “the castes, races, tribes or parts of groups within castes or races” to be included in the Scheduled Caste category for that State or Union Territory. Clause 2 of Article 341 allows the Parliament to exclude or include any caste, race or tribe from this list.

Articles 342 and 342A lay down similar provisions for Scheduled Tribes and socially and educationally backward classes respectively.

The court referred to the judgment in Indra Sawhney vs Union of India, 1992, in which the 9-judge bench had observed that these lists “are not meant to be sacrosanct and unalterable”. The court had also asserted that it would be the “duty” of the central government to look into the recommendations made by the commissions appointed by the state governments to delete or add certain castes, communities or classes.

The court also cited the judgment in Union of India and Others vs Rakesh Kumar and Others, in which the apex court had observed that “these affirmative action measures should be periodically reviewed and various measures modified or adapted from time to time in keeping with the changing social and economic conditions”.

On Wednesday, the court therefore observed, “The Government is duty-bound to undertake such an exercise as observed in Indra Sawhney (supra) and as constitutionally envisaged. The Government to take appropriate steps in this regard.”

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