Updated: July 2, 2021 7:18:41 am
The Supreme Court Thursday dismissed the Centre’s plea seeking a review of its May 5 ruling that the power to identify Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) lies exclusively with the Central government and not states for granting quota in jobs and education.
With the review plea dismissed, the Centre can now move a curative writ petition, the last legal resort available to remedy a judgment of the Supreme Court, or address the issue through Parliament.
A five-judge bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan said: “We have gone through the review petition filed against the judgment dated 05.05.2021 in Writ Petition (C) No.938/2020. The grounds taken in the review petition do not fall within the limited ground on which review petition can be considered.”
The bench, also comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao, S Abdul Nazeer, Hemant Gupta and S Ravindra Bhat, said: “The various grounds taken in the review petition have already been dealt with in the main judgment. We do not find any sufficient ground to entertain this review petition. The review petition is dismissed.”
In May, the bench had unanimously struck down the Maharashtra law granting reservation to the Maratha community in admissions and government jobs in the state. But in a 2:3 split verdict in the same case, the bench also held that after the 102nd Constitutional amendment, states had no power to identify SEBCs for granting reservation.
The Constitution (One Hundred and Second Amendment) Act, 2018 gives constitutional status to the National Backward Classes Commission. The amendment also gives the President powers to notify backward classes.
Several states raised questions on the interpretation of the amendment and argued that it curtails their powers. The bench unanimously upheld the constitutional validity of the 102nd amendment but differed on the question whether it affected the power of states to identify SEBCs.
Attorney General KK Venugopal, who had appeared for the Central government, had argued that giving the Centre exclusive powers was not the intention of the amendment and “that it is inconceivable that no State shall have power to identify backward class”.
He said the state government will have their separate list of SEBCs for providing reservation in state government jobs and education, whereas Parliament will only make the Central list of SEBCs which would apply to Central government jobs.
However, three judges — Justices Bhat, Rao and Gupta — held that “the final say in regard to inclusion or exclusion (or modification of lists) of SEBCs is firstly with the President, and thereafter, in case of modification or exclusion from the lists initially published, with the Parliament”.
The verdict virtually replicated the Constitutional model prescribed for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. In case of the SC/ST quota, the President notifies the community concerned, in a single list annexed to the Constitution, and powers to amend it are vested with Parliament.
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