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The central government on Monday assured the Supreme Court it would respond within three weeks to a public interest lawsuit that seeks a separate headcount of people belonging to backward classes.

The fresh lawsuit for enumeration of people of other backward classes (OBC) came up for hearing before a bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justice Deepak Verma.

Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam pleaded before the court that it should wait for three weeks for the government reply before issuing a notice.

The bench accordingly adjourned the matter to be listed after three weeks.

The lawsuit was filed by Mahatma Phule Samta Parishad, a civil society working for the progress of OBC people of Vidharbha region of Maharashtra.

The lawsuit drafted by advocate Shivpujan Singh sought direction to the central government to ensure separate headcount of OBC people in the latest census which began April 1 this year.

Singh argued that a separate OBC census will ensure better planning for the progress of that group of people.

The lawsuit said a separate OBC headcount is also required to silence the critics of reservation for OBC in educational institutions and government jobs.

The headcount will help counter opposition to OBC quota on the ground that their exact population is not known.

Singh pointed out to the court that the government used to have a separate headcount of OBC population in the country till 1931, when it suddenly discontinued the process of caste-based census.

He claimed Article 340 of the constitution, adopted by the country two decades later, provided for caste-based census.

The government continues the practice of not undertaking OBC headcount in “utter digress and flagrant violation of Article 15, Article 14, Article 340 and various other provisions of the constitution”, the lawsuit said.

Singh contended that he is not seeking a caste-based census per se but a census to determine the population of socially and educationally backward classes just like people from the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes are counted separately.

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