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Decoding the SC/ST verdict on reservations in home states

By Vicky Nanjappa
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    New Delhi, Aug 31: The Supreme Court held that a member of the Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribe community cannot claim the benefit of reservation in government employment in other states if his or her caste is not notified there.

    Decoding the SC/ST verdict on reservations in home states

    A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi unanimously held that a person belonging to Scheduled Caste in one state cannot be deemed to be a Scheduled Caste in other states where he migrated for the purpose of employment or education.

    The bench, which also comprised Justices N V Ramana, R Banumathi, M Shantanagoudar and Justice S A Nazeer, held "A person notified as Scheduled Caste in state A cannot claim the same status in another state on the basis that he is declared as Scheduled Caste in state A."

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    Justice Banumathi, however, disagreed with the majority view on the aspect of applicability of central reservation policy on SC/ST in national capital territory, Delhi.
    The bench with a majority of 4:1 held that so far as Delhi is concerned, the central reservation policy regarding SC/ST would be applicable here.

    The verdict came on a batch of petitions that had raised the issue whether a SC/ST in one state can seek reservation in another state where his caste is not notified as SC/ST.
    The bench was also seized of the question whether SC/ST people of other state can seek quota benefits for government jobs in Delhi.

    A Constitution bench of the Supreme Court on Thursday held that scheduled castes or tribes can avail benefit of reservation in government jobs only in their home states and can't access quotas in other states where they might have migrated.

    Upholding the "son of the soil" principle, the bench said if a person's status migrates with him it will amount to depriving the rights of SC/STs of the host state.

    The Delhi HC, while dealing with the issue of reservation in subordinate services, had referred the matter to the SC under Article 134A of the Constitution for authoritative adjudication on the issue.

    "Unhesitatingly, therefore, it can be said that a person belonging to a scheduled caste in one state cannot be deemed to be a scheduled caste person in relation to any other state to which he migrates for the purpose of employment or education," the court said.

    In relation to that state or Union Territory' and 'for the purpose of this Constitution' used in Articles 341 and 342 means benefits of reservation would be within the geographical territories of a state or UT, the Bench said.

    "If the special privileges or the rights granted to scheduled castes or scheduled tribes in a particular state are to be made available in all states and if such benefits are to be carried from state 'A' to state 'B' on migration, the mandate of Article 341/342 would get compromised," the court further added.

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    The court also held that the state could not tinker with list of SCs or STs by including other castes or tribes, saying this can be done only by Parliament and states doing so will lead to constitutional anarchy.

    "The upshot of the aforesaid discussion would lead us to the conclusion that the Presidential Orders issued under Article 341 in regard to scheduled castes and under Article 342 in regard to scheduled tribes cannot be varied or altered by any authority including the court.

    It is Parliament alone which has been vested with the power to so act, that too, by laws made. SCs and STs thus specified in relation to a state or a UT do not carry the same status in another state or UT. Any expansion or deletion of the list by any authority except Parliament would be against the constitutional mandate," the Bench further said.

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