Intra-group caste variances, equality and the Court’s gaze

La Excellence IAS Academy

Intra-group caste variances, equality and the Court’s gaze

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La Excellence IAS Academy | March 13, 2024

Syllabus: GS- II, Subject: Polity, Topic: Right Issues

Issue: Sub-classification within Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST)


  • The S.C. is set to deliver a verdict on whether State governments can sub-classify SC and ST reservation in public employment.

Key points on sub-classification within category:

  1. Need for SC and ST sub-categorization:
  • SCs and STs are diverse categories with varying levels of development.
  • States’ authority to provide special measures to the most discriminated castes within SCs and STs should be viewed as promoting equal opportunity.
  1. Constitutional Provisions:
  • The Constitution stresses equality via Articles 14 to 16, recognizing historical caste-based discrimination.
  • Article 341 does not necessarily bar sub-classification within Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
  • Article 341 only bars states from modifying the President’s list of SCs and STs.
  1. Supreme Court Precedents:
  • Since the M. Thomas case in 1975, the Supreme Court has recognized the government’s duty to ensure substantive equality through reservations.


  • Special measures for certain castes within the list do not exclude others from reservation benefits.
  • The focus is on achieving fair treatment and equal opportunity for all marginalized groups within the SC and ST categories.
  • Sub-classification aligns with the Constitution’s allowance for reasonable classifications to achieve equality.


+1 Advantage for Mains (Important Judgements)

Earlier Supreme Court Judgement on sub classification:

·         E.V. Chinnaiah vs State of Andhra Pradesh (2004) only Parliament, not state governments, can modify the list of SCs and STs.

·         Indra Sawhney case (1992), sub-classifications within socially and educationally backward classes (OBCs) for services under the government was permissible.

·         K.C. Vasanth Kumar & Another vs State Of Karnataka (1985) the propriety of making sub-classifications might depend on the facts of each case.

Source: The Hindu

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