The Supreme Court on Thursday disagreed with its 2004 Constitution Bench judgement, which ruled against giving preferential treatment to certain sub-castes within Scheduled Castes. The top court said this judgement needs to be revisited.
A five-judge bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra, and comprising Justices Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran, M.R. Shah and Aniruddha Bose, said it is essential to reconsider the 2004 verdict in the E.V. Chinnaiah case and, this matter should be placed before Chief Justice S.A. Bobde for appropriate direction.
The bench observed that reservation may be made for the sub-castes within Scheduled Castes, and such classification would not lead to interfering with the presidential order under Article 341.
The bench noted once the state has the power to give reservation, then it could go ahead with sub-classification, to extend the benefits of reservation to those sub-castes, which have not availed these benefits.
The bench also said it seems the 2004 verdict in the E.V. Chinnaiah case was not correctly decided, therefore it requires a reconsideration.
The 2004 verdict in the E.V. Chinnaiah case was also decided by a five-judge bench. As a result, the matter would now have to go to a larger bench. This will be placed before the Chief Justice to refer it to a bench of seven judges or more.
The current case came up before the apex court after the Punjab and Haryana High Court struck down a state law, which empowered the government to sub-classify SC/STs for grant of quotas.
The state government appealed against a 2010 verdict. The high court had struck down Section 4 (5) of the Punjab Scheduled Caste and Backward Classes (Reservation in Services) Act, 2006 and termed it unconstitutional. This Act gave first preference to Mazbhi Sikhs and Balmikis castes for SC quota in public services.