‘Unconstitutional’: Union minister faults UP move to expand SC list
The Centre on Tuesday described Uttar Pradesh’s decision to include 17 other backward class (OBC) groups in the list of Scheduled Castes (SCs) as “unconstitutional” and pointed out that proper procedure was not followed by the Yogi Adityanath government in pushing through with the move.
Speaking in the Rajya Sabha, Union minister for social justice and empowerment, Thawar Chand Gehlot, said that including OBC castes in the list of SCs is the exclusive domain of Parliament. He also sought a status report from the Adityanath government and asked it to send a proposal to the Centre on the matter.
Gehlot’s statement came in response to a submission made by Satish Chandra Misra of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) during Zero Hour, a period when members can raise issues of importance without prior notice to the chairman of the Upper House.
On June 24, the Uttar Pradesh directed district magistrates and commissioners across the state to issue SC certificates to members of 17 OBC groups – Nishad, Bind, Mallah, Kewat, Kashyap, Bhar, Dhivar, Batham, Machua, Prajapati, Rajbhar, Kahar, Pottar, Dhimar, Manjhi, Tuhaha and Gaur.
“The order that they [UP government] have issued now is not correct, it is unconstitutional. I urge them not to issue any certificates based on this order otherwise the issue will be sent to court,” Gehlot said.
HT had reported on July 2 that there was disquiet within the Union social justice ministry over the manner in which the changes were being implemented, and unnamed officials said it could be challenged in court.
In the Rajya Sabha, Misra opposed the move on the grounds that Article 341, clause (2) of the Constitution specifies that the power to make changes in the SC list lies only with Parliament. “...Even the President does not have the power to tinker, alter or make changes [in the list],” he told the House.
While the state government has defended the move saying that it wants to create more space for communities which have been unable to benefit from the OBC quota, Misra termed it as a “fraud” and contended that removing these castes from the OBC list would further prevent them from getting benefits.
Misra added that the BSP, led by party chief Mayawati, was in favour of including the 17 castes in the SC list but only after following prescribed procedure and increasing SC quota proportionately. “The power of Parliament cannot be usurped by a state,” he said.
Misra asked the Centre to issue an advisory to the Uttar Pradesh government to withdraw the “unconstitutional order” .
Gehlot said any inclusion or change in the SC-ST (scheduled tribe) - OBC lists was under the purview of Parliament. “If UP wants to include these castes in the SC list, there is a procedure; they should follow that process and send a proposal and we will consider it,” he said.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government is not the first in Uttar Pradesh to try and move these castes to the SC list. In 2005, the Samajwadi Party government of Mulayam Singh Yadav passed an order to include the castes to the SC list from the OBC list, but the order was quashed by the Allahabad high court.
The SP government of Akhilesh Yadav then cleared a proposal to include the same castes ahead of the 2017 assembly elections, but the order was again stopped by the court.
This March, during the previous Modi regime, the Union ministry of social justice and empowerment had written to the Adityanath government to not issue castes certificates to various communities, since the decision can only be taken by Parliament.
At that time, the ministry had told the government that its decision to put four OBC castes — Hindu Julaha, Koli, Kabirpanthi and Bunkar — as an SC group under Kori, and four others — Gadaria, Bhagel, Dhangar and Pal — under the SC group Dhangar was unconstitutional.