Representation must for STs, SC tells poll panel

The Supreme Court on Tuesday rapped the Election Commission (EC) for abdicating its constitutional obligation of providing proportional representation to the Scheduled Tribes (ST) in Parliament and state assemblies, and told the apex body to ensure they got their due right, though not in the upcoming assembly election.

A bench of Justices Altmas Kabir and J Chelameswar said that STs had the right to be represented in proportion to their population, in the legislatures.

The court, however, disposed of a writ petition (civil) filed by Virendra Pratap seeking direction to the EC to reserve at least two seats for STs in the 403-member legislative assembly in Uttar Pradesh as their population had swelled to 6.65 lakh with the inclusion of 10 more castes.

Since the election schedules were already declared for UP, it was not possible to reserve seats for STs in the state assembly this time. The EC would take appropriate action in future polls, the bench noted.

The apex court held that the EC had failed to carry out its constitutional obligation by not giving proportional representation to STs on the basis of the 2003 Presidential Order shifting 10 communities from the Scheduled Castes to the Scheduled Tribes category.

“STs have to be given representation in proportion to their number. The EC must take proper steps for their due representation in Parliament and state assemblies,” the bench said.

In its order, the court said that the EC would seek necessary details from census department as suggested by the Attorney General G E Vahanvati.

Advocate Meenakshi Arora, representing EC, submitted that it would take at least three months to make amends and carry out the process of reserving seats.

The elections to the UP assembly will be in seven phases from February 8 and the counting of votes will be on March 6.

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