The 102nd Constitution Amendment Act of 2018 inserted Articles 338B, which deals with the structure, duties and powers of the NCBC, and 342A which deals with the power of the President to notify a particular caste as SEBC and the power of Parliament to change the list.
NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that it is the Central government alone which is empowered to identify castes under the Socially and Economically Backward Classes (SEBC) and include them in a list to be published under Article 342A (1), specifying SEBCs in relation to each State and Union Territory.
The judgment was delivered by a Constitution Bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, L Nageswara Rao, S Abdul Nazeer, Hemant Gupta and S Ravindra Bhat by 3:2 majority.
The States can, through their existing mechanisms, or even statutory commissions, only make suggestions to the President or the Commission under Article 338B, for inclusion, exclusion or modification of castes or communities, in the list to be published under Article 342A (1), the Court ruled.
“By the introduction of Articles 366 (26C) and 342A through the 102nd Constitution of India, the President alone, to the exclusion of all other authorities, is empowered to identify SEBCs and include them in a list to be published under Article 342A (1), which shall be deemed to include SEBCs in relation to each state and union territory for the purposes of the Constitution,” the Court held.
Except for identification of SEBCs the States’ power to make reservations, in favour of particular communities or castes, the quantum of reservations, the nature of benefits and the kind of reservations, and all other matters falling within the ambit of Articles 15 and 16 will however remain undisturbed, the Court clarified.
The top court also struck down the Maharashtra State Reservation for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act, 2018 which extended reservation to the Maratha community in public education and employment. The MSR For SEBC Act was first challenged in the High Court and had come for an appeal to the Supreme Court.