Kerala High Court
Kerala High Court
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Government cannot sleep over failure to conduct state-wide socio-economic caste study: Kerala HC directs completion of the study in 6 months

There was an obligation imposed upon the State by Articles 15 and 16 of the Constitution, read with Article 340 to carry out this survey, the Court stated.

Lydia Suzanne Thomas

The Kerala High Court on Monday directed the State and Central Governments to take steps to finalise the report of the socio-economic study of socially and educationally backward classes in the State within six months.

The Division bench of the Chief Justice S Manikumar and Justice Shaji P Chaly stated that the State Government was duty-bound to periodically revise the list of socio-economically backward classes at ten-year intervals. This was mandated by Section 11 of the Kerala State Commission for Backward Classes Act, 1993.

This was necessary to ascertain which classes of persons were to be considered backward for the extension of benefits, the Court emphasized.

The direction came in response to two petitions that were made to the High Court seeking a direction to the Kerala Backward Classes Commission to identify communities that are socially and economically disadvantaged.

The Commission admitted to the High Court its inability to take any measure in this regard, considering that a periodic socio-economic survey had not undertaken by the State Government as yet. The Commission submitted that it has been making requests for the conduct of the exercise since 1995.

While the latest request was made in 2017, the last survey was conducted in 1961, the Court’s Judgment notes.

The Commission’s Counsel explained that after repeated requests, the State Government planned on conducting a caste survey when the Centre took over. This survey was completed in 2011, but has not yet been published, the Court was informed.

During this time, the State Government’s Rural Development department conducted a survey of the educational and socio-economic status of all communities, with the exception of forward communities and SC/ST groups. This report has not been published either, it was stated.

A web portal containing statistics regarding socio-economic representation was in the works, the Commission stated in Court.

The Court took note of the fact that the Centre’s report was not yet available with the State Government. The Commission had submitted that the same was not helpful for reservations without a comprehensive socio-economic survey.

It was observed:

"It is explicit and clear that by constituting a Commission under Act, 1993, it is bound to discharge the functions of identifying the backward classes, which is, by virtue of virtue of Article 340 of the Constitution of India, an obligation on the part of the Commission."

However, the Court noted that,

"The correspondences exchanged by and between the parties…would make it clear that the report of the socio economic study was being protracted by the authorities concerned, in spite of the earnest efforts made by the commission."
"One thing is clear that after the decision of the Hon’ble Apex Court in Indira Sawhney’s case, State is duty bound to constitute a (State Backward Classes) Commission and undertake review of backward classes remaining in the State periodically, identify their backwardness and provide sufficient reservation in the public employment."
Kerala High Court

The Court concluded that there was no justification for the State Government to sleep a matter of considerable importance necessary to ensure representation in Government services.

This was an obligation imposed upon the State by Articles 15 and 16 of the Constitution, read with Article 340, the Court emphasized.

The Union and State Governments were therefore directed to conduct a caste/class survey within six months from the date of judgment, that is, from September 7, 2020.

The Centre and the State Governments were directed to finalise this report and submit the same to the Kerala Backward Classes Commission. After this, the Commission and the Centre are expected to finalise the evaluation and submit its recommendations to the State Government.

“... we hope that the State Government and all the stakeholders will do the necessary, in order to finalise the report of socio-economic study of socially and educationally backward classes, as observed and directed above”, the Court said.

Last year, the one of the petitioners had approached the Supreme Court seeking relief in the same manner, but the Court declined to entertain the petition. The petitioner was granted the liberty to approach the High Court, following which the petition that formed the subject of the Judgment was made.

Advocates Sunil Kumar, Shalini Lal, O.A. Nuriya, and Haris Beeran represented the petitioners.

Read the Judgment:

Manikyavedhi and Anr. v. State of Kerala and Ors. and Connected Matters - Order dated September 7, 2020.pdf
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