SC sets aside order on caste-wise census

SC sets aside order on caste-wise census

The Supreme Court on Friday set aside a Madras High Court direction that enumerated people on the basis of their caste during the census, which was outside the categories of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes prescribed by the government.

A three-judge bench presided over by Justice Dipak Misra found the orders passed in 2008 and 2010 “wholly unsustainable and legally impermissible” and “a colossal transgression of the power of judicial review”.

“At no point of time had the central government issued a notification to have a census conducted on a caste basis. What is reflectible is that there is a census of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, but it is not done in respect to other castes or on a caste basis,” the bench said.

The Centre had issued notifications on January 13, 2000, and February 25, 2010, prescribing the information to be collected during the census. It covered many areas, including information relating to SCs and STs, and did not refer to any other caste, the bench noted.

“In such a situation, it is extremely difficult to visualise that the high court, on the first occasion and without having a list before it in that regard, could even have thought of issuing a command to the census department to take measures to conduct a caste-wise census in the country so that the social justice in its true sense, which is the need of the hour, could be achieved,” the bench said.

The Centre had approached the apex court challenging the Madras High Court order.
“The courts have the jurisdiction to declare the law as unconstitutional. That too, where it is called for. The court may also fill up the gaps in certain spheres applying the doctrine of constitutional silence or abeyance. But, the courts are not to plunge into policy making by adding something by way of issuing a writ of mandamus. There, judicial restraint is called for,” the bench said.

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