Debate over Uttar Pradesh move to add 17 OBC castes in Supreme Court list

Days after the Uttar Pradesh government included 17 castes under the Other Backward Class (OBC) category to the list of Scheduled Castes (SCs), officials in the Union social justice & empowerment ministry said the move is illegal & can be challenged in the court.

The ministry, which is the nodal ministry for issues related to SCs, Scheduled Tribes (STs) & OBCs, is yet to formally take up the issue with the state’s Yogi Adityanath government. But officials speaking on condition of anonymity said the state government has not followed the process laid down by the law.

“Any amendment to the list of SCs can be made only by an Act of Parliament, in view of clause (2) of Article 341 of Constitution. Anything other than that is ultra vires,” said an official.

The official added a caste or community can be declared SC if it faces extreme social, educational & economic backwardness arising out of traditional practice of untouchability.

“This is not the first time such attempt is made by the Uttar Pradesh government. Previous governments [of Mulayam Singh & Akhilesh Yadav] also tried to change the category of these communities. But the Allahabad high court quashed the moves as the registrar general of India (RGI) did not approve of them. As per the law, if the RGI has refused to allow the change even after the second reference, then it cannot be sent for consideration a third time,” said a second official on condition of anonymityThe state government’s move was seen as an attempt to create more space for those communities, which have not been able to benefit from the quota for the OBCs. The Centre has also appointed a commission to propose sub categorisation of the OBCs. The panel will carve out a way for those backward communities to benefit from reservations which have lost out so far.

P S Krishna, a former bureaucrat said, any change that has to be made to the SC list can be done only by an Act of Parliament. “If the government wants, it can help the most socially & educationally backward communities on the list of Economically Backward Classes, by complete categorisation of these castes & provide them all benefits of reservation…without wrongly calling them SCs.”

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