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Does Establishment of Caste Based Development Boards/ Corporations Violate Concept Of Secularism? Karnataka High Court To Examine

Mustafa Plumber
21 Dec 2021 9:23 AM GMT
Does Establishment of Caste Based Development Boards/ Corporations Violate Concept Of Secularism? Karnataka High Court To Examine
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The Karnataka High Court on Tuesday said it would examine if caste-based corporations established by the state government violate the concept of Secularism as envisaged in the Constitution. A division bench of Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi and Justice Sachin Shankar Magadum was hearing two petitions challenging the government orders issued in the year 2020, establishing the...

The Karnataka High Court on Tuesday said it would examine if caste-based corporations established by the state government violate the concept of Secularism as envisaged in the Constitution.

A division bench of Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi and Justice Sachin Shankar Magadum was hearing two petitions challenging the government orders issued in the year 2020, establishing the Corporations. The court at this stage rejected the preliminary objections raised by the state government on maintainability of the petitions.

It said, "The question before the court is the selective caste based corporations and spending of huge public money whether in any manner violates the concept of Secularism as envisaged in the Constitution."

Further it said, "The second question for consideration is whether the state government has legal sanction under Entry 32 list 2 of the Constitution of India to create such corporations which are allegedly caste based." It added that, "The third question for consideration would be whether spending of public money for development of few caste based corporations could be violative of Article 27 of Constitution of India."

It opined that the various contentions raised by the rival parties require consideration and it thus fixed the matter for final hearing on February 2, 2022.

The direction was given during the hearing of the petitions filed by Karnataka State Backward Castes Federation and Advocate S Basvaraj. The petitioners have challenged the establishment of Lingayat, Maratha, Brahmin, Aryavysya development boards/ corporations.

Advocate General Prabhuling K Navadgi while raising preliminary objections pointed out that the Petitioners have not impleaded all the corporations which they alleged to have been constituted on caste basis. Moreover, all the government orders which were issued for creation of such corporations have not been challenged.

Further, it was contended that the Corporations are nothing but implementing agencies who implement the budgetary allocation and unless and until the Karnataka Appropriation Act, 2021 is called into question, there cannot be a separate challenge to the creation of these Corporations.

Navadgi also said that there is a delay in filing of the petitions as the corporations are in existence for more than 10 to 11 years, but the petition has been filed only in the year 2020, although creation of these corporations was well known to the petitioner. Thus, the bonafides of the petitioners are in question.

Navadgi also submitted that allocation of funds from the consolidated funds on the basis of the Karnataka Appropriation Act cannot be questioned and it is within the total domain of the government.

He relied on the Supreme Court judgement in the case of Indra Sawhney vs Union Of India, and argued that caste can be the basis for determining backwardness. "All these corporations which are under challenge are basically the corporations for the development of backward classes of the society for which the Constitution already envisages reservation," he said.

Senior Advocate S Vijay Shankar appearing for the respondents adopted the contentions raised by the Advocate General and contended that it has been the consistent view of the Apex court that caste can be the basis of determining backwardness. He submitted that under Entry 32 List 2 of the Constitution, the state government is empowered to create corporations on the basis of caste. Further, he said that all the corporations have been registered under section 8 of the Indian Companies Act, 2013 which itself envisages registration of companies for "upliftment of any religion".

Senior Advocate Professor Ravivarma Kumar appearing for the petitioners on the other hand contended that the act of creating corporations on the basis of caste is totally arbitrary, discriminatory and based on political considerations. He stated that as per the documents placed on record by the state government, more than 500 backward classes, 101 SC caste and 50 ST Caste are notified in the state of Karnataka. Whereas, the corporations are created only for a few castes, such as Maratha, Veershaiyava Lingayat, Arya Vaishya and Brahim, which itself goes to show the discrimination which is violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India, Kumar submitted.

Further, he argued that petitioners have not challenged the Karnataka Appropriation Act as it does not allocate any funds for these corporations.

Referring to the Supreme Court decision in the case of Indian Young Lawyers Association v. State Of Kerala (Sabarimala Judgement), he said, "The Supreme court has categorically held that caste/community and social status do not bring into being a religious denomination."

Kumar also contended that they are ready to implead all the corporations which have been created on caste basis and have not been impleaded so far.

Following which the court said, "In view of the various contentions raised by the rival parties we are of the considered view that they require consideration of the court and we reject the preliminary objection at this stage and fix the matter for final hearing."

Case Title: Karnataka State Backward Castes Federation v. State of Karnataka

Case No: WP 14935/2020

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