New Delhi, Dec 14 (PTI): The Centre on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that the Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC), 2011 is ‘not’ the data on Other Backward Class (OBC) and was not made public as it was found to be ‘flawed’ and was ‘bound to mislead’.
The government said it ‘fully supports’ reservation for OBC but the exercise will have to be in line with the verdict of the Constitution bench which had said about 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.
The top court was hearing a plea filed by the Maharashtra government seeking direction to the Centre and other authorities to disclose to the state the SECC 2011 raw caste data of Other Backward Classes (OBCs) which has not been made available to them despite repeated demands.
Solicitor general Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, told a bench of justices A M Khanwilkar and C T Ravikumar that no reliance can be placed on the SECC 2011, not only for reservation but also for employment, education and others.
“I have given the distinction. I have also pointed out why this is not reliable. This was collected for a different purpose and for the very reasons enumerated, it was found to be flawed.
“I have very candidly placed it before your lordships,” Mehta told the bench while referring to the affidavit filed in September this year by the Centre.
The solicitor general told the bench that SECC 2011 is “not OBC data”.
“SECC means socially and educationally backward. There can be other than OBC who is socially and educationally backward,” he said.
“These are the factors why this data is so flawed and it is not made public because this is bound to mislead and bound to defeat the object. I fully support there has to be reservation for OBC but the exercise which they have to undertake will be as per the constitution bench…,” Mehta said.
Senior advocate Shekhar Naphade, appearing for Maharashtra, argued that the state has said in its counter affidavit filed in the matter that the Centre had told a committee of Parliament that 98 percent of data was correct.
“If that is the contention there, then how can they say it is not reliable,” Naphade said.
However, Mehta said that in Parliament, the answer depends upon the question which one frames.
He said the Centre has said in its affidavit before the apex court that SECC 2011 data is not reliable for any reservation.
During the hearing, the bench observed that one can go ahead with the reservation for OBC only if they comply with the triple test as mentioned in the constitution bench verdict of 2010 and also the judgement delivered later by a three-judge bench.
“It (SECC 2011) is not reliable at all. I will be able to satisfy the court,” Mehta said.
Naphade argued that the essence of democracy is that ‘Zila Parishads’ and ‘Panchayat Samitis’ cannot be kept without a proper elected council.
“Excess representation is also anti-thesis to democratic value,” the bench observed.
The arguments in the matter would continue on Wednesday.
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.