SC issues notice on hike in SC/ST seats in legislatures

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday issued notice to the central and the state governments on a PIL seeking increase in the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes’ representation in parliament and state assemblies in proportion to their increased population across the country.

A bench of chief justice H.L. Dattu and Justice Arun Mishra issued notice after senior counsel Kiran Suri told the court that since 2002 to 2011, 529 new categories have been added to the list of the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes and that alone has bolstered by another five crore the SC/ST population entitled to reservation.

Petitioner Puran Singh, a former Indian Foreign Service officer, has contended that despite increase in the SC/ST population on account of the addition of more categories, there was no proportionate increase in the SC/ST seats in parliament and state legislatures.

Besides proportionate reservation for SC/ST in parliament and state legislatures, he sought specific direction for “appropriate” reservation for the Scheduled Castes in the Punjab assembly in the coming elections.

Assisted by advocate Deepak Anand, Puran Singh invoked the Constitution’s Article 330 which provides for reservation of seats for the SCs and the STs in the Lok Sabha and Article 332 that provides for reservation of seats for them in legislative assemblies.

Both provisions say that allocation of reserved seats for the SCs/STs would be in the “same proportion to the total number of seats in the assembly as the population of the Scheduled Castes in the state”.

The petitioner contended that on account of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Orders (Amendment) Act, 2002 and 2007, several new categories were included in the SCs list, resulting in “considerable increase” in their population entitled to reservation.

However, both the central government and the Election Commission have not carried out “their consequential constitutional obligations to reflect the change and grant proportional representation to the Scheduled Castes under Articles 330, 332 and 243D of the Constitution,” the PIL said.

The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Orders (Amendment) Act, 1976, provided not only the inclusion in and exclusion from the SC/ST lists “but also for automatic readjustment of their representation of parliamentary and assembly constituencies,” the PIL added.

Puran Singh said that before 2002, the Ferozepur Lok Sabha constituency in Punjab had 23 percent Scheduled Castes population but now it is 42.3 percent, making it the country’s second constituency with largest number of Scheduled Castes population. The first, according to him, is Coochbehar.

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