Centre tells SC that it did not make results of 2011 caste census public because it is flawed

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 Classes (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 OBCs but the exercise will have to be in line with the verdict of the Constitutional bench of the Supreme Court, which had laid down triple conditions, the fulfilment of which is a prerequisite.  These conditions include 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 Supreme 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 on OBCs, which has not been made available to them despite repeated demands.

The 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.
“This was collected for a different purpose and for the very reasons enumerated, it was found to be flawed”, the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the bench.
The solicitor general told the bench that SECC 2011 is not OBC data.“SECC refers to socially and educationally backward. There can be people other than OBCs who are 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 that there has to be reservation for OBCs but the exercise which they have to undertake will be as per the constitution bench’s decision”, 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 obtained from the 2011 caste census 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.
According to him, the Centre has said in its affidavit before the Supreme court that SECC 2011 data is not reliable for the purpose of reservations.
During the hearing, the bench observed that one can go ahead with the reservation for OBCs only if they comply with the triple test as mentioned in the constitutional 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 organised without a proper elected council.
Excess representation is also antithetic to democratic values, the bench observed.
The arguments in the matter will continue on Wednesday.
The Centre had in September this year filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court stating that the caste census of Backward Classes is administratively difficult and cumbersome and excluding such information from the purview of the 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 the caste enumeration in the SECC 2011 was fraught with mistakes and inaccuracies.
It had said that the Centre had 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 claimed that the SECC 2011 survey was not intended to be a survey to identify the OBCs 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 held that reservation in favour of OBCs in concerned local bodies in Maharashtra cannot exceed 50 percent of the total seats.