Courts Cannot Declare a Caste to Be Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe: Supreme Court

Recently the Supreme Court has held that a High Court cannot look into evidence to determine if a particular tribe was part of a Scheduled Tribe which is included in Constitution ( Scheduled Tribes ) Order, 1950.

The Bench observed that the caste Gond Gowari and Gowari were two separate and different castes while setting aside Bombay High Court’s order wherein it was held that the Gowari Community could not be denied benefits of ST status.

Hon’ble Supreme Court held that:-

  • Gond Gowari community was extinct before 1911, and there was no trace of them in State of MP and Maratha Country of CP and Berar.
  • The Gond Gowari community did not exist as on 29.10.1956 which is the date of its inclusion as item no. 28 in entry no. 18 of Scheduled Tribes order of the Constitution and only the Gowari community was mentioned.

Issues raised before the Apex Court:-

  • If the High Court had the power to entertain the claim made by people from Gowari caste which was not included in the Scheduled Tribe order and also to record evidence in the case.
  • Whether the ratio mentioned in B. Basavalingappa Vs D. Munichinnappa allows High Court’s to determine issues about Gond Gowari and Gowari caste, and if there is any conflict between the judgements rendered in B. Basavalingappa Vs D. Munichinnappa and State of Maharashtra vs Milind.
  • Whether the High Court had the power to adjudicate the issue.
  • If the conclusion made by the High Court that the Hond Gowari Tribe was extinct before 1911, backed by evidence?
  • Whether Fond Gowari and Gowari tribes were the same and the High Court had the power to declare the castes entitled to ST certificate?
  • Whether the High Court’s finding that Gond Gowari was not a sub-tribe of Gowari and if an affinity test can check its validity.

Courts Cannot Declare a Caste to Be Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe

  • The Bench opined that the High Court could not have entertained the claim that Gowari caste should be declared an ST as the Gond Gowari was included as 18th entry in Constitution(ST) Order,1950 and the High Court did not have the power even to adjudicate the matter.
  • There was no conflict in the ratio of Milind and Basavalingappa case.
  • Hon’ble High Court could not have entertained the issue that Gond Gowari tribe was extinct before 1911
  • The conclusion reached by the High Court that the Gond Gowari tribe was extinct before 1911 was not supported by evidence or material.
  • It was clarified that Gowari caste was not same as Gond Gowari caste and high Court could not have declared the Gowari Caste as Gond Gowari.
  • It was further clarified by the Apex Court the finding of the High Court that Gowari was not a sub-caste of Gond Gowari was incorrect.

The Bench noted that the High Court had heavily relied on B.Basavalingappa Vs D. Munichinnappa and Ors, but the circumstances, in that case, were different.

While referring to the State of Maharashtra vs Milind, the Court held that the right to include or exclude a Scheduled Tribe vested with the Parliament and the Courts did not have the jurisdiction to entertain such claims.

Case Details:

Title: the State of Maharashtra vs Keshao Vishwanath Sonone

Case No.:CIVIL APPEAL NO. 4096 of 2020

Date of Order: 18.12.2020

Coram: Hon’ble Justice Ashok Bhushan, Hon’ble Justice R Subash Reddy and Hon’ble Justice MR Shah

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