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The constitutional scheme that the 2001 census data would be used for giving proportionate representation to Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) in Lok Sabha and legislative assemblies is "unambiguous", the Supreme Court said today.
A bench of Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice D Y Chandrachud was hearing a plea of NGO Public Interest Committee for Scheduling Specific Areas (PICSSA) that 'Limbu' and 'Tamang' communities, belonging to ST category, have been denied proportionate representation in West Bengal and Sikkim.
The plea, filed by lawyer Prashant Bhushan, also referred to the rise in ST population in Sikkim and West Bengal and said that the not reserving the seats for them amounted to "denial of constitutional rights of the STs".
The population of Limbu and Tamang communities was 20.60 per cent in 2001 and it rose to 33.8 per cent in 2011, it said, adding that in Darjeeling area of West Bengal, the ST population rose to 21.5 per cent in 2011 from 12.69 per cent of 2001.
"It is very clear that for proportionate representation, the census of 2001 shall be considered till 2026. There is no ambiguity," the bench said, adding that the constitutional scheme clearly stipulated as to which census would be used for reserving the seats.
As the bench expressed unwillingness, Bhushan sought time which led to the adjournment of the hearing to tomorrow.
The PIL has sought direction to the Centre, the poll panel and the two states to take steps for proportional representation of STs, as guaranteed under Articles 330 (reservation of seats for SCs and STs in the House of People) and 332 (reservation of seats for SCs and STs in legislative assemblies of states) of the Constitution, to prevent violation of Article 14 (Equality before law).
The petition said in the Tribes Advisory Council (TAC) established in West Bengal on March 6, 2012, there were no elected members of STs from the three hill area subdivisions of Darjeeling district.
"Moreover, the state assembly elections in 2016 had no reserved ST seat and hence had no implementation of articles 170 and 332 of the Constitution notified as per census 2011.
The delimitated assembly seats in Darjeeling hills presently consist of elected non-ST members," it said.
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