Supreme Court Upholds States' Power to Sub-Classify Scheduled Castes

  • 09 Feb 2024

The Supreme Court affirmed on 8th February, 2024, that individual States have the authority to provide preferential allotment of reservation benefits to particularly backward groups within the Scheduled Castes without encroaching upon Parliament's power to include or exclude communities from the Presidential list.

Key Points

  • Constitutional Context: Articles 341 and 342 empower the President to compile lists of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, respectively. Parliament regulates the inclusion or exclusion of any caste, race, or tribe from these lists through legislation.
  • Sub-Classification: The Constitution Bench, headed by Chief Justice of India is deliberating on whether States can sub-categorize particularly backward groups within the Scheduled Caste category and grant them priority in quota benefits.
  • Judicial Perspective: The Bench dismissed concerns that sub-classification would lead to the "Balkanisation of the list," emphasizing that States have the prerogative to address the unique needs of specific sub-castes.
  • Judicial Oversight: The High Courts have the authority under Article 226 to scrutinize State decisions on sub-classification, ensuring alignment with empirical data and the objective of promoting equality.
  • Avoiding Political Exploitation: The court acknowledged the risk of political appeasement and emphasized the importance of States demonstrating objective criteria, such as lack of representation, in identifying backward classes.