Sub-Categorisation of Scheduled Castes

Sub-Categorisation of Scheduled Castes

Why in the news Sub-Categorisation of Scheduled Castes?

A committee of five secretaries, led by the cabinet secretary, been establish by the union government. This committee’s job is to evaluate the 1,200 Sub-Categorisation of Scheduled Castes in the nation and determine how best to allocate benefits, programs, and initiatives to the most underprivileged populations.

  • This development comes particularly in response to the Madiga community’s demands in Telangana.

Key Highlights Of The Committee

  • Purpose: The committee will exclusively consider strategies such as implementing special initiatives and directing existing schemes towards their benefit, among other things. The mandate strictly prohibits discussing matters relates to reservation or the allocation of SC quota for employment and education, as such discussions would be consider sub-judice.
  • Members: Secretaries of Home Ministry, Law Ministry, Tribal Affairs Ministry, and Social Justice Ministry.
  • The goal to assess and develop a system for the fair distribution of benefits, programs, and initiatives to the most disadvantage communities among the over 1,200 Schedule Castes nationwide, which have been marginalize by comparatively more progressive and influential ones.

Major Aspects Related to Subcategorisation of SC in India

  1. Definition and Purpose:
  • Subcategorisation involves breaking down a larger category into smaller, more specific subcategories based on specific criteria or characteristics.
  • In the Indian context, subcategorisation of Scheduled Castes (SC) may entail further classification within the SC group based on factors like socioeconomic status or historical disadvantages.
  1. Struggle of the Madiga Community:
  • The Madiga community, comprising 50% of SCs in Telangana, has encountered obstacles in accessing government benefits earmarked for SCs due to the dominance of the Mala community.
  • Despite their significant population, the Madiga community asserts that it has been marginalize from SC-related initiatives.
  • Since 1994, they have advocated for the subcategorisation of SCs, leading to the establishment of the Justice P. Ramachandra Raju Commission in 1996 and subsequently a National Commission in 2007.
  1. Similar Challenges Across States:
  • SC communities in various states have faced comparable issues, prompting the formation of commissions by both State and Union governments.
  • States like Punjab, Bihar, and Tamil Nadu have made attempts to implement subcategorisation at the state level, but these efforts currently mired in legal disputes.

Constitutional Stance:

  • Articles 341 and 342 of the Constitution empower the President to notify Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) lists, and Parliament to create these lists. However, there is no explicit prohibition against sub-categorisation.

Union Government’s Position:

  • In 2005, the Union government explored legal avenues for the sub-categorisation of Scheduled Castes (SCs).
    • The former Attorney General of India suggested that this could be feasible, but only if substantial evidence demonstrated its necessity.
  • The National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) and the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) opined that a constitutional amendment was unnecessary.
    • They noted that Article 16(4) of the Constitution already empowered states to enact special laws for any backward classes deemed under-represented.
    • They also argued that merely setting aside a quota within the existing quota would not suffice.
    • They emphasized the immediate need for ensuring that existing schemes and benefits reached these communities on a priority basis.

Debate Around Sub-Categorisation Within SCs

  • Arguments Supporting Sub-Categorisation:
    • The main rationale for sub-categorisation of Scheduled Castes (SCs) is the varying levels of inequality among these communities.
    • Even within marginalized groups, some communities have limited access to essential services. Consequently, the relatively more advanced communities within the SCs have been consistently benefiting from available resources, marginalizing the more disadvantaged ones.
    • Sub-categorisation is seen as a solution to this issue, aiming to allocate separate reservation quotas to the more disadvantaged communities within the SC category.

Arguments Against:

  • Sub-categorisation fails to address the fundamental issue at hand, which is to ensure representation across all levels.
  • Even if posts were reserved at higher levels, the most disadvantaged SC groups would likely not have sufficient candidates to qualify for these positions.
  • Therefore, it is essential that existing government schemes and benefits reach these marginalized sections before any sub-categorisation is considered.
  • Legal experts highlight the importance of concrete data to support sub-categorisation.
    • They advocate for a caste census of each community and sub-community, along with their respective socio-economic data.
    • According to them, a caste census provides the only empirical basis upon which the government can justify sub-categorisation of benefits and determine the additional share of benefits needed by each community.
Legal Status of Sub-categorisation Within Castes
  • Over the past two decades, several states such as Punjab, Bihar, and Tamil Nadu have attempted to enact reservation laws at the state level to sub-categorise Scheduled Castes (SCs).
  • However, all these initiatives have been halted in the courts as the Supreme Court forms a larger Constitution Bench to adjudicate on the issue.
  • V. Chinnaiah v State of Andhra Pradesh (2004):
    • The Supreme Court ruled that once a community is included in the Presidential List for Scheduled Castes under Article 341 of the Constitution, they become part of a single larger class for the purpose of reservation.
    • The Bench concluded:
      • States lack the legislative authority to create sub-classifications within this single class.
      • Such actions would contravene the Right to Equality.
    • The Constitution stipulates that only Parliament has the authority to create these lists, which are then notified by the President.
  • In 2020, another five-member Supreme Court bench, in the Davinder Singh case, unanimously upheld the constitutional validity of sub-categorisation and recommended that a larger constitutional bench adjudicate on the matter.


The upcoming decision by a seven-judge bench of the Supreme Court, along with recommendations from a committee, will determine the course for subcategorising Scheduled Castes. Emphasizing practical solutions in line with legal norms, we can leverage the advantages of subcategorisation while managing potential risks, promoting an inclusive, supportive, responsive, and resilient society.