SC categorisation upheld by court
By Our Legal Correspondent

HYDERABAD, NOV. 8. A Bench of the Andhra Pradesh High Court, comprising five judges, by a majority judgment on Wednesday upheld the constitutional validity of the A.P. Scheduled Castes (Rationalisation of Reservation) Act, which was promulgated dividing the Scheduled Castes in the State into four categories for the purpose of admissions into educational institutions and employment.

The Bench, comprising the Chief Justice, Mr. M. S. Liberhan, Mr. Justice Bilal Nazki, Mr. Justice B. Sudershan Reddy, Mr. Justice G. Raghu Ram, and Mr. Justice V.V.V.S. Rao, was dismissing the batch of writ petitions challenging the validity of the Act.

Mr. Justice Bilal Nazki differed with the other judges and held that the Act was not constitutional. The majority view was delivered by the Chief Justice in a 95-page judgment. It may be recalled that after a prolonged agitation by one section of the SCs the Government called for report from a commission and issued a GO categorising the SCs into four groups. Each group was to get the benefit of reservation based upon the population of the group. After the High Court struck it down the Government approached the Supreme Court and then withdrew the case. After the National Commission for SC and STs rejected the Government's proposal, the Government issued an ordinance and then enacted the impugned Act.

Various groups and individuals who opposed the categorisation challenged the constitutional validity on the question of legislative competence and violation of constitutional provisions like Article 341 and Article 16 etc.

The Chief Justice dwelt at length on the question of competence, and declared that the State Legislature had the competence to enact a law in this issue. It was made clear that there was no reason to oust the jurisdiction of the State Legislature to enact in the matter regarding the SCs. Dealing with the argument that the Act violated Article 341(2), which says that Parliament alone can include or exclude a group from the list of SCs, the court said that in the present case there was no exclusion or inclusion. It was also made clear that it was not colorable legislation. The court said that ``incisive sociological analysis'' is not the duty of courts. ``The process of identification of disparities amongst the sections of communities is a matter essentially for the State in its legislative and executive spheres,'' the majority view said.

When counsel for the petitioners sought leave to approach the Supreme Court, the Bench granted leave, but refused to stay the operation of the judgment.

It may be recalled that the admission of the SC students in professional courses could not be completed due to the pendency of the case, and now the decks are cleared for the finalisation of admissions based upon the categorisation.

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