The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to examine a plea seeking directions to the central government to conduct a caste-based census this year to collect data on the Other Backward Classes, Live Law reported. A bench of Chief Justice Bobe and Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian issued notice to the Centre and National Commission for Backward Classes.

The court was hearing a plea filed by Telangana-based social activist G Mallesh Yadav, who contended that a caste census was a “vital necessity” for the betterment of Other Backward Classes, a vast collection of castes that make up over half the country’s population.

The petitioner argued that a caste census had an imperative role in implementing reservations in education, employment sectors, and in local body elections. A lack of such data, the plea said, was creating problems in deciding the percentage of reservations for backward classes proportionate to their population.

The government is planning to conduct a national census in 2021 and a pro forma was released containing 32 columns with details of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, Hindus, Muslims, among others, the plea noted. But a column of Other Backward Classes has not been included in the document.

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The plea stated that the central and state governments were introducing and implementing multiple schemes for education, employment, economic and political sectors for the development of backward classes, and with intention to keep the said community out of below poverty line. A budget is being allocated every year for this.

However, the plan is running into difficulties as there is not enough data to lay down a budget-sharing agreement, the plea said.

Further, the petition argued that under the Constitutional mandate, while there is a prohibition that the government will not discriminate against any citizen on the grounds only of religion, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them, the state is also empowered to make provisions for the upliftment of socially and educationally backward classes, scheduled classes, castes and tribes or for women and children.

The plea also noted that the number of backward castes and communities in the initial list of Mandal Commission set up in 1979-’80 was 3,743, according to PTI. The number of backward castes in central list of OBCs has now increased to 5,013 in 2006 as per the National Commission for Backward Classes. Yet, the government has not conducted a caste-based survey to get the full picture, it said.