The government has decided to give the Election Commission the powers to make changes in seats reserved for Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies, where fresh changes have been detected during the last one decade in the population percentage of any caste.
The law ministry is ready to seek the cabinet's approval for an ordinance soon, which will empower the EC to determine the change in composition of any constituency where the government had included or excluded any caste from SC/ST category between 2001 and 2012, HT has learnt.
This will allow the EC to carry out a "limited corrective exercise immediately" rather than waiting for decades for the outcome of the next delimitation exercise to decide whether a particular constituency should be reserved for SC/ST candidates, or thrown open for the general category.
The move to bring this ordinance followed the EC's statement before the Supreme Court that it does not have the powers to alter the SC/ST seats and it can only be done through nationwide delimitation.
The government has the powers to bring an ordinance when Parliament is not in session and it enjoys the force of law. It is, however, is required to get the ordinance approved by both Houses in the very next session.
In a matter pertaining to Uttar Pradesh, the apex court had asked the EC to consider the demand of a group of castes to reserve assembly seats for STs depending on their population. The problem arose when the state government shifted 10 castes from SC to ST category.
"With the shifting of these castes, the number of communities arose from 5 to 15 under the ST fold, and their population went up to 6.5 lakh from 1 lakh, justifying the demand for reserving at least three assembly seats for STs," said an official.