The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has told Supreme Court that plea by Maharashtra government seeking Census data on Other Backward Classes (OBC) in the State should not be entertained as census of backward classes is "administratively difficult" and "will suffer both on account of completeness and accuracy." (State of Maharashtra vs UOI).The Central government filed an affidavit stating that it issued a notification on January 7, 2020 prescribing information to be collected in the upcoming 2021 census which includes information relating to Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes, but does not refer to any other category of caste.The exclusion of information regarding any other caste from the upcoming census is a "conscious policy decision" taken by the government, the affidavit said.The Central government, therefore, urged the top court to not issue any directions to Census Department to include enumeration of socio-economic data to the extent relating to BCCs of rural India in the upcoming 2021 census as prayed for "since it would tantamount to interfering with a policy decision as framed under Section 8 of the SC-ST Act."As the exercise of collecting data of OBCs is tedious, the State of Maharashtra had approached the top court seeking information about OBCs in Maharashtra that was available with the Centre during the 2011 Census.The State government invoked the extraordinary jurisdiction of the Supreme Court after having decided to conduct a socio-economic and caste census across the state by the Maharashtra State Commission for Backward Classes (MSCBC).The Maharashtra legislative assembly had this year passed a resolution in the House to approach the Centre for 2011 census data in order to compile empirical data on the OBC population in the state. The 2011 census data has not been released till date by the Centre citing errors..Central government in its affidavit said that unlike mandate for collection of census data on SCs and STs, "there is no such constitutional mandate for the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, India to provide the census figures of OBCs/BCCs.".Population census, the Centre maintained, is not the ideal instrument for collection of details of caste. "The operational difficulties are so many that there is a grave danger that the basic integrity of the census data may be compromised and the fundamental population count itself could get distorted," it was submitted. .The government also pointed out that many High Courts as well as Supreme Court have in the past, declined to grant similar reliefs seeking caste wise census as sought by Maharashtra government..The reply cited issues with regard to collection of OBC data, claiming that in many States, Scheduled Castes is listed as an OBC Entry. "One reason which appears to be the cause of this confusion us that every enumerator who visited each household spelt each caste separately. For eg. with respect to the caste of Mappilas in the Malabar region of Kerala, the said caste has been spelt in 40 different ways by different enumerators resulting into counting of 40 different castes. In a further example, "Pawar" and "Powar" would be grouped together as they are phoentically similar though only "Powar" are OBCs," the affidavit said.Thus, the Centre contended that either due to the mistakes committed by enumerators, inherent flaws in the manner of conducting a census, and several such other factors, there are no reliable or dependable castes based census data available which can be the basis of any constitutional or statutory exercise like reservations in admission, promotion or local body elections.