New Delhi: The Centre has informed the Supreme Court that population census is not the ideal instrument for collection of details on caste, and that the Maharashtra government’s plea seeking census data on other Backward Classes (OBCs) in the state should not be entertained, as “the caste Census of Backward Classes is administratively difficult and cumbersome”.
In an affidavit filed before the top court, the Union Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry said: “Each time, the view has consistently been that the caste Census of Backward Classes is administratively difficult and cumbersome; it has suffered and will suffer both on account of completeness and accuracy of the data.”
The Centre said it is not feasible to collect information on Backward Class of Citizens (BCC) in the upcoming Census, with its affidavit citing “practical difficulties” in ascertaining an identification criterion for backward classes. “The population census is not ideal instrument for collection of details on caste.. there are two separate OBCs lists viz. Central list and state list. Unlike SCs and STs lists, the lists of OBCs are not exclusively central subjects,” it added.
The Centre also found issues with the conduct of the caste census as part of the Socio-Economic and Caste Census 2011 (SECC-2011) survey. The affidavit added that it is evident from the infirmities of the SECC 2011 data that it is unusable for any official purposes and cannot be mentioned as a source of information for population data in any official document.
The Maharashtra government had moved the Supreme Court seeking release of the 2011 SECC census data so that they could implement the 27 percent reservation for OBCs announced under the Zilla Parishads and Panchayat Samitis Act.
The Centre made it clear that empirical data needed for the implementation of the schemes is not available. “Details available in the record of Census pertaining to caste is not reliable either for the purpose of any reservation, whether in admission, employment or elections to local authorities”, added the affidavit.
The Maharashtra government contended without the central Census data, the proportional representation of OBCs in rural BCCs is not possible in the elections.
But the Centre’s affidavit said: “Various reasons due to the mistakes committed by the enumerators, inherent flaws in the manner of conducting Census and several such other factors, there is no reliable or dependable castes-based Census data available which can be basis of any constitutional or statutory exercise like reservation in admission, promotion or local body elections.”
The Centre also opposed the plea to add questions on OBC/BCC in the questionnaire for the upcoming 2021 Census. “Any direction from this court to Census department to include the enumeration of socio-economic data to extent relating to BCCs of rural India in the upcoming Census 2021, as prayed, would tantamount to interfering with a policy decision as framed under Section 8 of the Act,” it added.