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Reservation: Caste Away

Reservation: Caste Away
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Above: Marriage often means migration for Indian women, but they then stand to lose their caste benefits/Photo: UNI

The apex court has said that a scheduled caste in one state cannot avail of reservation benefits in another state

By Manan Malik

The apex court has once again clarified that a Scheduled Caste person residing in one state and notified there cannot claim reservation benefit if he takes up residence in another state, whether or not his caste is included in that state’s list of Scheduled Castes.

The petitioner, while applying for the post of district information officer in Uttarakhand, mentioned in her application that she belonged to a Scheduled Caste. Despite being provisionally selected, her candidature was cancelled by the Public Service Commission, Uttaranchal (now Uttarakhand), on the ground that she could not derive the benefit of reservation in Uttarakhand.

Before approaching the apex court, the petitioner had filed a writ petition before the Uttarakhand High Court. The High Court, while dismissing the petition, observed that the right to be treated as a member of the reserved category is directly attributable to birth and a person can claim reservation only in the state in which he is born and not the one to which he may migrate. The division bench held that after migration from Punjab, the petitioner could not be treated as a member of the Scheduled Caste in Uttarakhand and therefore, she was not entitled to be appointed to the post reserved for SCs.

The petitioner demanded reservation on the ground that she had married a Valmiki and was a resident of Dehradun since 1988. She contended that the Commission had committed an error by rejecting her appointment against the post reserved for Scheduled Castes des­pite the fact that Valmiki is recognised as a Scheduled Caste in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. Two certificates issued by the tehsildar of Dehradun showed her as a Valmiki of UP and Uttaranchal and a permanent resident of Dehradun.

In Action Committee on Issue of Caste Certificate to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the State of Maharashtra and Another v Union of India and Another (1994), the Constitution bench of this Court, while answering a similar question, said: “We may add that considerations for specifying a particular caste or tribe or class for inclusion in the list of Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes or backward classes in a given state would depend on the nature and extent of disadvantages and social hardships suffered by that caste, tribe or class in that State which may be totally non est in another state to which persons belonging thereto may migrate. Coincidentally it may be that a caste or tribe bearing the same nomenclature is specified in two States but the considerations on the basis of which they have been specified may be totally different. …Therefore, merely because a given caste is specified in State A as a Scheduled Caste does not necessarily mean that if there be another caste bearing the same nomenclature in another State the person belonging to the former would be entitled to the rights, privileges and benefits admissible to a member of the Scheduled Caste of the latter State for the purposes of this Constitution.”

The apex court while upholding the order passed by the High Court relied on two constitution bench judgments, namely Marri Chandra Shekhar Rao v Dean, Seth GS Medical College and Others (1990) and Action Committee (supra), wherein it was held that a Scheduled Caste person of one state cannot derive benefits in any other state. The Court said that permitting anything in contravention of this would dilute the law laid down in both these judgments. It dismissed the appeal.

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