Legal Correspondent

“Inclusion in BC list not motivated by political considerations”

No caste can be removed from the list without

a complaint: Vahanvati

Can you go on adding to the list merely because there is no complaint, asks Bench

New Delhi: Caste can be the basis or starting point for identification of backward classes, the Centre asserted in the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

Making his submissions before a five-judge Constitution Bench hearing the OBC quota case, Solicitor-General G.E. Vahanvati said caste was the primary index of social backwardness, which was often identifiable with reference to a person’s caste.

Mr. Vahanvati was responding to a question from the Bench whether caste could be the starting point for identification of backwardness. He said identification had to start with class “which eventually is caste. If a caste is socially and educationally backward (SEB), it is enough for its identification and nothing else is required.”

Quoting from earlier judgments, he said, “There is no gainsaying the fact that there are numerous castes in this country which are SEB. To ignore their existence is to ignore the facts of life.” He said “a caste is also a class of citizens and if the caste as a whole is SEB, reservation can be made in favour of such a caste on the ground that it is an SEB class of citizens within the meaning of Article 15 (4).

Mr. Vahanvati said, “You cannot ignore the composition of the Hindu society, which is predominantly based on caste.”

He said the Supreme Court in the Mandal judgment clearly recognised that caste was the only criterion for identifying backwardness of a person for providing reservation.

Mr. Vahanvati said a caste was only a description of a group following a particular occupation or profession and even if one were to leave that profession in later years one would continue to be recognised or identified with that particular caste.

He refuted the allegations that inclusion of castes in the backward classes list was motivated by political considerations. He pointed out that the National Commission for Backward Classes had emphatically rejected the inclusion of politically dominant castes such as Marathas in the Central list.

To a question why not a single caste had been excluded from the list so far, Mr. Vahanvati told the Bench, “There has not been a single complaint made before the State Commission or the National Commission with regard to overinclusion of any caste or community.”

When he said no caste could be removed without a complaint, the Bench said, “Instead of uplifting, you bring them down. Can you go on adding to the list merely because there is no complaint? Can you say that disadvantageous sections should continue to enjoy the benefits despite the fact that they are enjoying the benefit for a number of years?”

Mr. Vahanvati said, “It is incorrect to say that there are no guidelines or procedure for inclusion of castes in the list. There is an elaborate procedure followed by the Central and State Commissions while considering the request for inclusion. While examining the applications, the Commissions had taken note of the ethnographic history of the castes concerned/sub-groups/communities. The Commissions have also considered the status of the castes concerned and socio-educational backwardness of the caste concerned.”

He will continue his arguments on Wednesday.