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Caste Census : Maharastra Govt Opposes Union's Stand In Supreme Court That Collection Of OBC Information In Census 2021 Is Difficult

Srishti Ojha
4 Dec 2021 2:17 PM GMT
Caste Census : Maharastra Govt Opposes Unions Stand In Supreme Court That Collection Of OBC Information In Census 2021 Is Difficult
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The State of Maharashtra has submitted before the Supreme Court of India that a direction to include enumeration of socio economic data relating to OBCs of Rural India in the upcoming 2021 census would not amount to interfering with a policy decision.The submission has been made in response to Centre's stand taken before the Supreme Court that exclusion of OBCs from the purview of Census is...

The State of Maharashtra has submitted before the Supreme Court of India that a direction to include enumeration of socio economic data relating to OBCs of Rural India in the upcoming 2021 census would not amount to interfering with a policy decision.

The submission has been made in response to Centre's stand taken before the Supreme Court that exclusion of OBCs from the purview of Census is a conscious policy decision taken by Central Government and any direction by court to include OBC's would tantamount to interfering with a policy decision.

The State of Maharashtra has made the submissions through a rejoinder affidavit filed in response to Centre's affidavit in Maharashtra's writ petition seeking directions to the Union of India to disclose the Socio Economic and Caste Census 2011 (SECC-2011), raw caste data of Other Backward Classes and to gather data of socio economic to the extent relating to caste of citizens of Rural India in its 2020 Census.

The State of Maharashtra has also informed the Court that in pursuance of its judgement dated 4th March 2021, the State has on 23 September 2021 promulgated an Ordinance amending the Rural Local Body Acts in the State thereby restricting the reservation to the Backward Class Citizens to 27% of the total seats and ensuring that the total reservation does not cross 50% of the total seats.

The State has argued that submissions made by the Centre in its affidavit about the SECC-2011 is contrary to its submissions in the "Twenty Seventh Report on the action taken by the Government on the recommendations contained in the Sixteenth Report of the Standing Committee on Rural Development (16' Lok Sabha) on 'BPL Survey currently Socio Economic & Caste Census (SECC), 2011."

The State of Maharashtra has pointed out that the Union of India in its affidavit before the Supreme Court submitted that the SECC-2011 was not an 'OBC Survey, the caste data has not been disclosed, and technical flaws were noticed in the raw caste/tribe SECC data which makes it unusable".

However, in the 27th Report on the action taken by the Government of India on recommendations contained in the 16th Lok Sabha Standing Committee Report on BPL Survey, the Union of India has stated that SECC-2011 has data on individuals' caste and religion, the caste data has been disclosed and that 98.87% of the data is error free.

The State has therefore argued that contentions raised by the Centre in the Reply affidavit are false and are raised as an afterthought only because it does not want to disclose the SECC 2011 raw caste data of the Other Backward Classes to the State.

The State in its affidavit filed through Advocate Rahul Chitnis has also expressed its disagreement with Centre's submission that a notification for 2022 census has already been issued in November 2020, it is not possible to include any further question relating to OBCs/ BCCs.

The Central Government issued a notification on 7th Jan 2020, prescribing a series of information to be collected during Census 2021 and it includes information relating to Scheduled Caste/ Scheduled Tribe, but does not refer to any other caste.

According to the State of Maharashtra, even in 2011 the Union Cabinet had decided to conduct the SECC 2011, where the caste of household along with the social economic status was directed to be collected at a late stage.

The Centre had also submitted that after the field operations of caste enumeration were conducted, the data had been stored with Office of Registrar General Of India, and shared with the Ministries as per decision of the Cabinet for taking suitable decision on its use. However due to several infirmities found in the data, it was decided by the Cabinet to constitute an Expert Committee, but the Committee never met and no action has been taken in past 5 years

Responding to Centre's submissions, the State has submitted that if the reasoning is accepted then it would never be possible to collect details on caste.

The following are the submissions made by Centre in its reply affidavit:

  • Caste Enumeration In SECC 2011 was fraught with mistakes and inaccuracies
  • No Reliable Or Dependable Caste Census Available To Be Basis Of Constitutional Exercise
  • Socio Economic and Caste Census 2011 (SECC-2011) Was Not An OBC Survey
  • Caste Wise Enumeration In Indian Census Given Up As Matter Of Policy 1951
  • SECC 2011 Wasn't Subject Matter Of SC's Judgement In Case Referred To By State
  • Collection Of Information on Backward Class Of Citizens (BCC) through Census 2020(21) Not Feasible

Details of the Petition:

The plea has sought directions to the Union of India to disclose the SECC- 2011 raw caste data of Other Backward Classes, and in case they are unwilling or not in a position to do the same, permit the State to collect such empirical data regarding OBCs within the State.

A Direction has also been sought to Union of India to gather data of socio economic to the extent relating to caste of citizens of Rural India in its 2020 Census, to enable the States to calculate population belonging to castes that make a part of Backward Class Of Citizens(BCC) in the State

.The State has stated that the Supreme Court through its judgement dated 4th March 2021 in case of Vikas Kishanrao Gawali vs State of Maharashtra had directed it to constitute a dedicated Commission for conducting a contemporaneous rigorous empirical inquiry into nature and implications of backwardness qua local bodies, for purpose of providing reservation to the OBCs.

It has been argued that while the State has constituted the Commission, since the Central Government is not sharing the census data of OBCs collected by them during year 2011-2013, the State has been unable to place the SECC 2011 raw caste data before the Commission.

A Bench headed by Justice AM Khanwilkar will hear the matter on 13th December 2021.

Case Title: State of Maharashtra vs Union of India | WP(c) 841/2021

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