The Madras High Court has asked the central government to conduct a fresh caste-wise census in the country, “at the earliest and in a time-bound manner” to help achieve “the goal of social justice in its true sense”.
A Division Bench of Justices Elipe Dharma Rao and S. Tamilvanan said they would suggest to the union census department to take “all measures” to undertake a caste-wise enumeration of the Indian population once again, in the interest of the weaker sections.
The last caste census was conducted under British rule in 1931. In Independent India, governments have resisted enumerating the thousands of castes in the country — barring one umbrella category of scheduled castes — during the successive censuses held every 10 years. The reason: such enumeration would encourage caste divisions.
However, with new categories of reservations — Other Backward Classes (OBC), more other backward classes (MBC) and so forth — having been introduced by various state governments, there has been a growing demand for proper data to base the reservation quotas on.
The bench thus noted that the percentage of reservation for various categories based on 1931 population figures was unfair. Reservation quotas, too, should be “proportionately increased by conducting a (fresh) caste-wise census,” it said.
The observations were made on a petition filed by one E. Sayed Ali, from Lakshadweep, who had been selected as a veterinary assistant surgeon under the scheduled tribe category, but who claimed he had been bypassed for promotion even though a reserved vacancy for a scheduled tribe candidate existed.