New Delhi, Nov 7 :
The Supreme Court Friday said it was not the job of the courts to examine the contours of a government policy and whether there could have been a better version of a particular policy followed by the government.
“… it is clear as noon day that it is not within the domain of the courts to embark upon an inquiry as to whether a particular public policy is wise and acceptable or whether a better policy could be evolved,” said the bench of Justice Dipak Misra, Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman and Justice Uday Umesh Lalit.
“The court can only interfere if the policy framed is absolutely capricious or not informed by reasons or totally arbitrary and founded ipse dixit offending the basic requirement of Article 14 of the Constitution,” the court said.
“In certain matters, as often said, there can be opinions and opinions, but the court is not expected to sit as an appellate authority on an opinion,” Justice Misra said, speaking for the bench.
The court said this while allowing an appeal by the Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India challenging the Madras High Court order directing it to carry out caste-based Census.
The court also set aside the Oct 24, 2008, and May 12, 2010, judgments and orders of the Madras High Court.
The high court by its order directing the caste-based census had said: “We direct the census gepartment of the government of India to take all such measures towards conducting the caste-wise census in the country at the earliest… so as to achieve the goal of social justice in its true sense…”
The high court had said there was an increase in the population of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Class (OBCs) since 1931 when the last caste-based census was done.
Thus, the percentage of reservation fixed on the basis of the population in 1931 has to be proportionately increased, by conducting caste-wise census by the government in the interest of the weaker sections of the society, it said.
Addressing the question whether the high court could have issued such a mandamus, commanding the Centre to carry out a Census in a particular manner, the apex court said: “The high court has tried to inject the concept of social justice to fructify its direction.”
“It is evincible that the said direction has been issued without any deliberation and being oblivious of the principle that the courts on very rare occasion, in exercise of powers of judicial review, would interfere with a policy decision. Interference with the policy decision and issue of a mandamus to frame a policy in a particular manner are absolutely different.”
Referring to the government notification on Census, the apex court said Census covers many areas, including information relating to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and does not refer to any other caste.
“In such a situation, it is extremely difficult to visualise that the high court, on the first occasion, without having a lis before it in that regard, could even have thought of issuing a command to the Census Department to take all such measures towards conducting the caste-wise census…,” the judgment said, declining the position of the high court.
This, the court said, “irrefragably, is against the power conferred on the court”.
“The high court had not only travelled beyond the lis in the first round of litigation, but had really yielded to some kind of emotional perspective, possibly paving the adventurous path to innovate. It is legally impermissible.”