Over four years after the Madras High Court directed the Centre to conduct caste-wise census in the country, the Supreme Court Friday set aside the HC judgment, describing it as a “colossal transgression of power of judicial review”.
In its judgment, the Bench of Justices Dipak Misra, R F Nariman and U U Lalit, ruled that the HC had travelled beyond the matter in dispute before it which was legally impermissible.
“The High Court had not only travelled beyond the lis (matter in dispute) in the first round of litigation, but had really yielded to some kind of emotional perspective, possibly paving the adventurous path to innovate. It is legally impermissible. On the second occasion, where the controversy squarely arose, the High Court did not confine to the restrictions put on the jurisdiction and further, without any kind of deliberation, repeated the earlier direction,” the bench said.
In its May 2010 judgment, the Madras HC had asked the Census Commissioner to take all steps to hold caste-wise census. In doing so, the bench had referred to an October 2009 judgment through which the court had directed the Centre to conduct a fresh caste-wise census “at the earliest and in a time-bound manner” to achieve “the goal of social justice in its true sense”.
However, disagreeing with the HC reasoning, the SC Friday said it was extremely difficult to visualise that the HC without having a lis before it in that regard, could even have thought of issuing a direction to the Census department to take all such measures towards conducting the caste-wise census in the country.
“The order is exceptionally cryptical. That apart, it is legally wholly unsustainable. The High Court, to say the least, had no justification to pave such a path and we have no hesitation in treating the said path as a colossal transgression of power of judicial review, and that makes the order sensitively susceptible,” the bench ruled.
The bench said it is not within the domain of the courts to embark upon an inquiry as to whether a particular public policy is wise and acceptable or whether a better policy could be evolved.