The apex court was hearing a plea filed by Justice B Chandra Kumar (since retired) seeking directions that the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Orders (Amendment) Act, 1976 recognizing the Banjaras as Scheduled Tribes in Telangana be declared as unconstitutional and illegal as no proper inquiry regarding the backwardness of the community was conducted.
He also questioned how the community, which was recognized as Backward Class before the amendment, was put in the category of Scheduled Tribes.
Lambadas, also called Sugalis or Banjaras, were included in the list of Scheduled Tribes by the government of undivided Andhra Pradesh in 1976.
Telangana, which was carved out of Andhra Pradesh in 2014, continues this categorisation.
The former judge has sought directions that the Centre produce all records pertaining to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Orders (Amendment) Act, 1976, recognising the Banjaras as a Scheduled Tribe in the Telangana area of undivided Andhra Pradesh.
According to the plea, the 1976 amendment was illegal and in violation of Article 342 of the Constitution, dealing with the rights of STs, as no proper inquiry regarding the backwardness of the community was conducted.
"Lambadas and Sugalis before their recognition as Scheduled Tribes in respect of the Telangana region of the erstwhile State of Andhra Pradesh by virtue of the 1976 Amendment Act, have been long recognized as Backward Class Communities in the Telangana region.
"Having enjoyed the benefits of a Backward Class community, the said communities cannot be treated as a Scheduled Tribe. A community which is otherwise more socially and economically advanced cannot be said to lose its social advancement over a period of time and can get transformed into a tribe, without the presence of any characteristics which a tribe possesses," the plea, filed through advocates Ramesh Allanki and Sravan Kumar, said.