The Supreme Court of India has dismissed a PIL that sought to deny the creamy layers of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes the benefits of reservation in jobs, education and other segments observing that the issue came within the domain of Parliament. This dismissal comes four years after the Court had issued a notice in the matter.
In August 2013 OP Shukla, a retired officer of Indian Legal Services, filed a PIL petition before the Supreme Court of India seeking to bring “advanced and affluent” Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes out of the purview of reservation and sought a response from the Centre and all State governments on this issue. PIL sought to know the reasons why the Union and States were reluctant to exclude certain castes whose exclusion was recommended for by two central panels formed in this regard in 1975 and 2008.
Petitioner OP Shukla himself belonged to the Balmiki community and had retired in 2009 from the income tax appellate tribunal as member-judicial. He submitted that benefits of reservation were not percolating down to the real and genuine beneficiaries and said that 1,677 communities belonging to SC/ST – about 99 percent of the total Dalit and tribal population – have largely remained untouched by the benefits of reservation.
|Writ Petition (Civil) No. 337 of 2011
|OP Shukla v. Union of India and Others
As early as 1965, the Lokur Committee recommended exclusion of certain advanced castes/tribes. It was also pointed out by the committee that vested interests had emerged within SCs and STs as a result of concessions given to them.
Petitioner also sought the implementation of the Lokur Committee recommendations for the periodic review of the list of SC/ST. The petition also said that the reservation policy had been implemented in a “lop-sided” manner by the government, thereby benefiting a few groups and leaving out 99 percent of the targeted people.
Petitioner sought the following relief:
A. Declare the powers, scope and ambit of Article 341 and 342 of Constitution of India, for equitable distribution of reservation among depressed classes.
B. Issue a writ of Mandamus or any other appropriate writ, order or direction thereby directing the Respondents to take firm steps to implement the recommendations of Lokur Committee and exclude Chamar, Mala , Mahar, Meena , Dusad Passi and Dhobi etc from the schedule/list; or
C. Issue a writ of Mandamus or any other appropriate writ, thereby directing the Respondents for equitable distribution of share of Reservation among 99% Ati Dalit castes so as to ameliorate the sufferings of age old Ati Dalits amongst the SCs /STs;
D. Issue any other writ, order or direction as this Hon’ble Court may deem fit, just and proper in the facts and circumstances of the present case to give complete relief to the petitioner.
Arguments and Notice
On 23 August 2011, the matter was heard by a bench comprising of Justices R V Raveendran and A K Patnaik. Senior Advocate R. Venkataramani argued the matter and sought the defining of the power, scope, and ambit of Articles 341 and 342 of the Constitution, that deal with the inclusion of a caste or tribe in the scheduled list.
Bench issued notices to the Centre and state governments seeking their response to introduce concept of creamy layer for SC and ST reservation.
2015 – Dismissal
Post-notice, when the matter came for hearing before the the Court, it was heard by the bench comprising of Justices Ibrahim Kalifulla and V. Gopala Gowda. As Times of India reported, bench was of the view that it was not possible for the court to interfere in the matter and it was for Parliament of India to take a decision. Bench observed:
It is not possible for the court to pass direction. It is for Parliament to decide.
Senior advocate R Venkataramani submitted before the Court that the reservation benefits were inequitably distributed among SCs/STs in the last 64 years and only a small group had benefited from the policy. However the bench raised the question of maintainability and asked the petitioner how his fundamental rights were violated by the current reservation policy that led him to file the PIL. It observed:
Your prayer is not maintainable. You tell us how your rights are being violated.
As the Court was not inclined to hear the petition, Petitioner withdrew the PIL. Bench dismissed the PIL as withdrawn and ordered:
Learned senior counsel for the petitioner seeks leave to withdraw this writ petition with liberty to work out whatever remedy available to the petitioner before the appropriate forum.
The writ petition is dismissed as withdrawn with the liberty prayed for.
References: IANS/Zee | Deccan Herald | Times of India