NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court Wednesday dismissed a plea filed by the Maharashtra government seeking a direction to the Centre and other authorities to disclose to the state the Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC) 2011 raw caste data of the Other Backward Classes (OBCs).
A bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar and C T Ravikumar noted that affidavit filed by the Centre before it emphatically stated that the data of SECC 2011 is “not accurate” and “unusable”.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, told the bench that the SECC 2011 data is “absolutely unreliable” as several infirmities were found in it.
Senior advocate Shekhar Naphade, appearing for Maharashtra, told the bench that the Centre cannot claim before the top court that the data is full of errors as the government had told a Parliamentary committee that the data was 98.87 per cent error free.
The bench, while rejecting the petition, said the state is at liberty to pursue other remedies available under the law.
The Centre had on Tuesday told the apex court that the SECC 2011 is “not” an OBC data and it was not made public as it was found to be “flawed”, and “bound to mislead”.
The government had said that it “fully supports” reservation for OBC but the exercise will have to be in line with the verdict of the Constitution bench which had mentioned triple conditions, including setting up a dedicated commission to conduct a contemporaneous rigorous empirical inquiry into the nature and implications of the backwardness qua local bodies within the state.
Mehta had argued that no reliance can be placed on the SECC 2011, not only for reservation but also for employment, education and others.
The Centre had in September this year filed an affidavit in the apex court saying caste Census of Backward Classes is administratively difficult and cumbersome” and excluding such information from the purview of Census is a “conscious policy decision”.
The government had said in its affidavit, filed by the secretary of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, that caste enumeration in the SECC 2011 was “fraught” with mistakes and inaccuracies.
It had said the Centre has already issued a notification in January last year prescribing the series of information to be collected during Census 2021 and it covers many areas including the information relating to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes but does not refer to any other category of caste.
The Centre had also said that SECC 2011 survey was not on the “OBC survey’ as alleged, but a comprehensive exercise to enumerate the caste status of all households in the country, as per their statement.
In March this year, a three-judge bench of the apex court had said that reservation in favour of OBCs in concerned local bodies in Maharashtra cannot exceed aggregate 50 percent of the total seats reserved for Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes and OBCs taken together.
The top court had referred to the triple condition noted in the Constitution bench verdict of 2010.
The conditions included — to specify the proportion of reservation required to be provisioned local body-wise in light of recommendations of the commission so as not to fall foul of overbreadth and in any case such reservation shall not exceed an aggregate of 50 percent of the total seats reserved in favour of SCs/STs/OBCs taken together.