Mumbai: A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed before the Bombay High Court has sought the inclusion of neo-Buddhists among Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) and accordingly increase the number of Lok Sabha and Legislative Assembly seats reserved for backward classes.
Pointing out that by counting out 6.03% Buddhists in the state, the registrar general and census commissioner of India (RGCC) and the director of census operation (DCO), Maharashtra, have acted in a “blind-folded” manner and have erroneously counted the SC and ST population of the state to be 10.20%.
The PIL has been filed by Swwapnil Bhingardevay, 39, an industrialist who belongs to the SC community. Bhingardevay has stated that by leaving out the 6.03% of the neo-Buddhists, the Centre, state, the Delimitation Commission, GRCC and the DCO have all denied three Member of Parliament (MP) seats and 18 Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) seats to the SC and ST community.
Bhingardevay’s advocate Pradeep Havnur said that the petition is likely to be heard by a division bench in the coming week. Bhingardevay has contended that the current number of reserved MP seats should be raised from 5 to 8 and MLA seats should be raised from 29 to 47. Calling it a “systematic denial of rights”, he has urged the court to restrain the government from announcing the date of the forthcoming assembly elections until neo-Buddhists are also given recognition as SCs and STs.
He added that if the government continues to hold that the population of SCs and STs in the state is 10.20% against the actual 16.23%, it would mean that the government and its agencies “deliberately” do not want to adhere to the rights provided to SCs and STs in Article 330 of the Constitution.
The PIL also states that if the neo-Buddhists would have been counted among the SC, ST population in 2001 census, it would add to 58,38,710 to the existing 98,81,656 population of SCs and STs.
The PIL has also urged the court to direct the concerned authorities of reserve a seat for backward classes in the Karad constituency which has SC and ST population of 43,224 instead of Phaltan which has a greater population of 53,071.