States can be allowed to make laws that favour certain communities who fall within scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, the Supreme Court said on Thursday, in an order that could have significant impact on reservations in jobs and colleges. The court, however, said that the issue needs to be examined by a wider bench and referred it to the Chief Justice.
Providing quota within quota for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes is permissible, the Supreme Court said adding that the state has powers to provide sub-classification based on inadequacy of representation.
The state has powers to uplift the disadvantaged by providing sub-quotas, the court said, giving the example of the Balmiki community which continues to be oppressed despite affirmative action for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes and is still engaged in menial jobs like manual scavenging.
"There is cry, and caste struggle within the reserved class as benefit of reservation in services and education is being enjoyed, who are doing better hereditary occupation. The scavenger class given the name of Balmikis remains more or less where it was, and so on, disparity within Scheduled Caste is writ large from various reports," the court said.
The Supreme Court found that its 2004 verdict, which said that states do not have the power to further sub-classify the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes for granting quotas in jobs and admissions to educational institutions, needs to be revisited."There are unequals within SC and ST and socially and educationally backward classes," the judges said.
A five-judge bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra said the 2004 verdict of a constitution bench needs to be reconsidered and, therefore, the matter be placed before Chief Justice SA Bobde for appropriate direction.
The bench, which also included Justices Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran, MR Shah and Aniruddha Bose, said in its view the 2004 verdict was not correctly decided and states can make laws to give preferential treatment by sub-classifying castes within scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.
Relying on the 2004 verdict, several high courts had struck down laws framed by states that allowed the governments to sub-classify communities who have been given reservation. Several appeals and transfer cases against the orders were decided by a three-judge bench which said the 2004 verdict required a review. On Thursday, a five-judge bench heard the case and delivered the verdict today.