The Centre Tuesday disapproved the UP government’s move to issue caste certificates to 17 Other Backward Classes (OBCs), saying it is “not appropriate” nor “constitutional”.
Rekindling the debate over moves to include 17 OBCs in the Scheduled Castes (SCs) list, the UP government, citing a 2017 observation of the Allahabad High Court, had directed officials to issue caste certificates to these 17 castes “after examination and based on documents in accordance with the rules”. The High Court, while hearing a PIL, had said that “in the event, any caste certificates are issued pursuant to the order impugned, those certificates shall be subject to the outcome of the writ petition”.
The state government’s June 24 direction to district magistrates and commissioners to issue caste certificates to the 17 OBCs — Kashyap, Rajbhar, Dhivar, Bind, Kumhar, Kahar, Kewat, Nishad, Bhar, Mallah, Prajapati, Dhimar, Batham, Turha, Godia, Manjhi and Machua — had drawn an angry response Monday from BSP chief Mayawati who called it “unconstitutional”, saying these castes would neither get benefits meant for OBCs nor SCs since a state government had no power to make any alteration to the SC list.
On Tuesday, Thaawarchand Gehlot, Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment, told Rajya Sabha that only Parliament has the right to remove any SC, ST or OBC group from one caste list and include it in another. Gehlot’s reply came after the issue of caste certificates in UP was raised by BSP’s Satish Chandra Mishra.
“This is not at all appropriate. It is the Parliament’s right to remove an SC, ST or OBC caste from one group and include in another. This issue has come up in Parliament two-three times in the past, but there was no agreement. If the Uttar Pradesh government wants to remove these castes from the OBC list and include them in the SC list, then it should followed due procedure,” Gehlot said.
He said if the Uttar Pradesh government follows the procedure and sends a proposal to the Centre, it will consider it. “But the direction that they (UP government) have issued now, it is not appropriate and not constitutional. I would request them (the state government) not to issue caste certificates on the basis of such an order. Otherwise the matter will end up in courts and it will be rejected and there will be no benefit.”
Rajya Sabha chairman M Venkaiah Naidu the directed the Minister to advise the UP government to follow the procedure.
Raising the issue during Zero Hour, Mishra said the state government does not have the power to make any alteration to the SC list. He said Article 341(1) of the Constitution prescribes the procedure for regarding castes as “Scheduled Castes”. He said Article 341(2) prohibits making additions or deletions to the Presidential Order.
“Nobody can tinker with it or alter it… Even the President cannot modify his own notification on his own,” Mishra said. He reiterated Mayawati’s point that these 17 castes will neither get benefits meant for OBCs nor SCs since a state government has no power to make any alteration to the SC list.
He said the BSP was in favour of including 17 castes in the SC list but only after following prescribed procedure and increasing the SC quota proportionately. “The power of Parliament cannot be usurped by a state,” he said. The BSP leader wanted the Centre to issue an advisory to the UP government to withdraw the “unconstitutional order” as it is harming castes.