Subclassification of SC/ST: The Supreme Court on Thursday said that its 2004 decision needs to be reconsidered. It was said in this decision that states do not have the power to subclass the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes or sub-classification of SC/ST to provide reservation in jobs and admissions in educational institutions. A five-judge bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra said that the 2004 judgment of the Constitution Bench in the EV Chinnaiah case needs to be revisited. Therefore, this matter should be placed before the Chief Justice for proper directions.

In view of differences of opinion between two of the five judges of the constitution bench, the issue has been referred to the chief justice to constitute a larger bench to hear the case at length and adjudicate on the matter.

The bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra opined that since state governments have powers to make reservations, they also have the powers to make further sub-classifications in the reservation list. Justice Mishra, while reading the operative part of the judgment, said, “In a federal structure, the state government cannot be denied the power to make laws to give preferential treatment to sub-categories within the reservation list.

But the Supreme Court had in its judgment delivered in the EV Chinnaiah v the State of Andhra Pradesh case of 2005, held that it was unconstitutional for state legislatures to create subcategories of SCs and STs.

In the present case, the bench, also comprising Justices Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran, MR Shah, and Aniruddha Bose, had reserved its verdict on 17 August on the question whether the 2005 judgment needs to be revisited and on the constitutional validity of the laws made by the state legislatures for creating subcategories.

Thursday’s judgment was passed on a batch of appeals against a Punjab and Haryana High court verdict which, while holding the provision to be unconstitutional, had struck down section 4(5) of the Punjab Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes (Reservation in Services) Act of 2006.

Was the 2004 decision not taken properly?
The bench also included Justice Indira Banerjee, Justice Vineet Saran, Justice MR Shah and Justice Anirudh Bose. The bench said that according to his view the decision of 2004 was not taken properly and the states can make laws to subclass the castes within the Scheduled Castes / Scheduled Tribes to give preference to a particular caste.