The apex court bench, also comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and S K Kaul, then fixed the matter for further hearing in the second week of April. (Reuters)
The government today told the Supreme Court that appointments to the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) were pending because of an Election Commission’s directive against filling the posts till the poll process in five states got over. “I have spoken to the authorities about the filling up of the vacancies. The Election Commission of India has told us not to do it till March 15 as Assembly election process is going on,” Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told a bench headed by Chief justice J S Khehar.
The apex court bench, also comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and S K Kaul, then fixed the matter for further hearing in the second week of April. Earlier, the court had on March 7 sought the government’s response on the PIL seeking filling up of the vacancies in the commission, which does not have any member at present. NCSC, a statutory body formed under Article 338 of the Constitution, is a five-member panel comprising a Chairperson, Vice Chairperson and three members.
The PIL filed by Ambedkar Association for Development, an organisation which works for SC/ST welfare, claimed that the position of the Chairperson has been lying vacant since October 21, 2016, that of the Vice Chairman since November 4, 2016 and one out of the three members of the commission had demitted office on November 7, 2016. It said after the remaining two members demitted office on March 4 and 5, “the commission has become defunct and inoperative and on account of the same, the public in general will suffer at large.”
“The inordinate delay on the part of the government is costing the people profusely,” it said, adding that this might prejudice the interest of the schedule castes. “There would be complete vaccuum in the commission and the interest of the scheduled castes would be seriously prejudiced as there would be logjam of plethora of cases pending before the NCSC,” it said. The plea also sought extension of the tenure of a woman member, who demitted the office on March 5, “to safeguard the interests of scheduled castes”.