Union Law Minister Veerappa Moily on Thursday strongly defended the demand for a caste-based census, saying that only with the latest data at hand would it be possible to ensure the advancement of the socially and educationally backward classes better.

In an exclusive interview to The Hindu, Mr. Moily, however, admitted that the government had not yet taken any decision. He was categorical that whatever reservation that was being provided now was based on the judgments of the Supreme Court and High Courts. If at some point of time the judiciary were to declare null and void the reservation to the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) on the ground that there was no data, it might result in problems. Even while upholding the validity of the 93{+r}{+d} Constitution Amendment, the Supreme Court pointed out that there was no data on castes.

Mr. Moily said: “What we want is to build a casteless society. But it cannot be done ignoring the reality.” Giving an analogy, he said, “Caste is a cancerous growth in society. But you cannot inject radiation for the entire body for removing the cancer. A major surgery will have to be done for that [affected] part and not for the entire body.”

Mr. Moily said the present data on caste was based on the 1931 census. In 1951, Article 15 was amended to make a provision for reservation to the Backward Classes but there was no data.

“Then, after the Supreme Court judgment on the Mandal Commission [recommendations] , we have number of commissions at the national level and in the States.” Their task was to include or exclude castes. He wondered how these commissions would work without any data. “That is why these commissions have become dysfunctional.”

Mr. Moily said the Centre and the States had embarked on a number of employment and educational programmes for the BCs and these programmes could be effectively implemented only if there was adequate data.

BC population

Asked whether the government, in the event of such a census taking place and the BC population exceeding 50 per cent, would move the Supreme Court for enhancing the percentage of reservation, for which there is a ceiling of 50 per cent, Mr. Moily said: “The government will not necessarily seek an increase in the percentage of reservation. We can confine reservation to 50 per cent, the concept provided by Dr. Ambedkar and accepted by the Supreme Court.” He, however, said it would be premature to say anything at this stage without any data.

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