The Uttar Pradesh government’s latest attempt to extend the benefits available to Scheduled Castes to 17 castes that are now under the Other Backward Classes (OBC) list has no legal basis and appears to be aimed at making political gains ahead of a round of by-elections to the State Assembly.
Only parliament has power
It is fairly well- known that Parliament alone is vested with the power to include or exclude any entry in the SC list under Article 341 of the Constitution.
Uttar Pradesh has unsuccessfully tried to get some backward castes declared as Scheduled Castes in the past, once during the tenure of Mulayam Singh, and again during the rule of Akhilesh Yadav. In 2016, a notification was issued stating that 17 castes were to be treated as Scheduled Castes. The matter is challenged in Allahabad High Court.
Why cannot be included in ST list?
No doubt, these 17 castes comprise the most disadvantaged among the backward classes. However, treating them as Scheduled Castes is beset with problems. For one thing, they may not qualify to be treated as SCs because they may not have suffered untouchability and social discrimination. Given the legal limitations on the State government’s power to expand the SC list, it is not difficult to discern a political motive behind any move to confer SC status on sections of the OBC.