SC asks NGO to provide population details of STs in Sikkim, Bengal

5 Jul 2017

The Supreme Court today asked an NGO to apprise it how it had deciphered the population details of 'Limbu' and 'Tamang' tribals in Sikkim and West Bengal by using the 2001 census data.
A bench comprising Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice D Y Chandrachud was hearing a plea of NGO 'Public Interest Committee for Scheduling Specific Areas (PICSSA) that 'Limbu' and 'Tamang' communities, belonging to ST category, have been denied proportionate representation in West Bengal and Sikkim. It asked lawyer Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the NGO, to provide population details about the 'Limbu' and 'Tamang' tribals on July 11, the next date of hearing.
Bhushan claimed that there was a rise in the ST population in Sikkim and West Bengal and not reserving seats for them proportionate to the growth in their population amounted to denial of their constitutional rights. "How did you arrive at the figures that there is a rise in population of these communities from the 2001 census," the bench said. The apex court had on Monday said the Constitutional scheme that the 2001 census data would be used for giving proportionate representation to Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) in Lok Sabha and legislative assemblies is "unambiguous".
However, the NGO in its plea has claimed that the population of Limbu and Tamang communities in Sikkim was 20.60 per cent in 2001 and had risen to 33.8 per cent in 2011. It also said that in Darjeeling area of West Bengal, the ST population rose to 21.5 per cent in 2011 from 12.69 per cent of 2001. "It is very clear that for proportionate representation, the census of 2001 shall be considered till 2026. There is no ambiguity," the bench had said.
The PIL has sought direction to the Centre, the poll panel and the two states to take steps for proportional representation of STs, as guaranteed under Articles 330 (reservation of seats for SCs and STs in the House of People) and 332 (reservation of seats for SCs and STs in legislative assemblies of states) of the Constitution, to prevent violation of Article 14 (Equality before law).
The petition said in the Tribes Advisory Council (TAC) established in West Bengal on March 6, 2012, there were no elected members of STs from the three hill area subdivisions of Darjeeling district. "Moreover, the state assembly elections in 2016 had no reserved ST seat and hence had no implementation of articles 170 and 332 of the Constitution notified as per census 2011. The delimitated Assembly seats in Darjeeling hills presently consist of elected non-ST members," it said.