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Will Depict Only A Truncated Picture: Plea Assails Sample Survey To Classify EWS Among Forward Communities, Kerala High Court Issues Notice

Hannah M Varghese
8 Dec 2021 6:43 AM GMT
Will Depict Only A Truncated Picture: Plea Assails Sample Survey To Classify EWS Among Forward Communities, Kerala High Court Issues Notice
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The Kerala High Court has admitted a plea filed by the Nair Service Society (NSS) contesting the sample survey designed by the State Commission for Economical Backward Classes Among Forward Communities to ascertain backwardness by collecting details from five economically backward families from each locality.After admitting the plea, Justice N. Nagaresh issued notice to the State and...

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The Kerala High Court has admitted a plea filed by the Nair Service Society (NSS) contesting the sample survey designed by the State Commission for Economical Backward Classes Among Forward Communities to ascertain backwardness by collecting details from five economically backward families from each locality.

After admitting the plea, Justice N. Nagaresh issued notice to the State and the Commission in the matter. 

The plea filed through Advocates R.T. Pradeep, V. Vijulal, Bindudas M. and K.C. Harish alleged that members of the Nair community have been suffering serious setbacks on the financial front for several years but were not eligible for reservation since they were forward communities. Thus the members of the community for the last more than half a century had gone back in all indicators of progress and advancement. 

After the 103rd Amendment of the Constitution, members of the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) were made eligible for 10% reservation under Articles 15(6) and 16(6). Accordingly, the State Government recently implemented the said reservation in the matter of admission to educational institutions and for public employment.

To implement reservation, the State constituted Kerala State Commission for Economic Backward Class among Forward Communities chaired by Justice A.V. Ramakrishna Pilla in 2019. 

The Commission suggested that the statistics of the social and economical status of all the communities in the State be prepared by conducting a Socio-Economic-Communal survey since the periodical census once in ten years was devoid of this information. Perhaps due to the financial implication for conducting an exhaustive survey, the Government seems to have shelved this proposal to be conducted along with the census.

Meanwhile, the Commission now in office has proposed to conduct a random sample survey to ascertain backwardness among forward communities where the enumerators collect details through a mobile application from five economically backward families of each ward of local bodies. A questionnaire was also prepared for this but it only received administrative sanction from the State.   

NSS opposed the sample survey alleging that it will bring out only a truncated and sketchy picture of economically weaker sections of forward communities.

"When the commission recommended for Socio-Economic-Community survey of all the communities out of the entire population of the State and to take population census of all the communities in the State, sample survey of five families of economically weaker forward communities is in direct contravention and open defiance to the recommendation of the commission," the plea reads.

The petitioner Society has also alleged that when the Socio-Economic-Community survey and population census of all the communities shall provide the data bank for implementation of reservation and other welfare measures to bring the marginalized to the main stream, the obvious attempt of the commission is to sabotage the recommendation of the erstwhile commission by conducting a meaningless sample survey which would serve no purpose at all. 

"Another calamity ingrained in the process is that by collecting insufficient and inconsequential data by conducting sample survey, there will be greater chance for the Government in future to act upon such stale data to the determent of forward communities."

NSS argued that the Commission was obliged to formulate indicators to determine economic backwardness among forward communities and to evolve a methodology for collecting data on such criteria/indicators. This is the standard procedure of a socio-economic survey.

Yet the commission had not done either of these and as such, it had abdicated the essential function of a survey. The plea also termed the sample survey an 'eye-wash survey with far-reaching consequences' to the determent of economically backward forward communities.  

Notably, the petitioner had moved the respondents seeking to hold the impending sample survey alleging it to be a flagrant violation of the earlier recommendation of the Commission.  

The Commission now in office allegedly responded to this by categorically endorsing all the objections to the sample survey. It was stated that in the wake of no decision being taken by the government, the Commission recommended a sample survey as an interim measure to suggest welfare measures. The tenure of the present Commission will expire on 13.3.2022.  

Based on this response, the petitioner has argued that it is crystal clear that Commission itself is of the view that the sample survey will not serve the implementation of the recommendation made by the erstwhile Commission.

"The Commission just wanted to conduct a hurry berry futile survey for making recommendations before the expiry of its term. The legal implications and ramifications of collecting stale data in contravention to clause 2(m) cannot be fathomed by the respondents."

On these grounds, the petitioner has sought to challenge the sample survey proposed to be conducted by the Commission. 

Case Title: Nair Service Society v. State of Kerala & Ors

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