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In a key ruling, the Supreme Court clarified that individuals belonging to Scheduled Tribes (STs) in one state cannot automatically claim ST status in another state or Union Territory (UT) where the tribe is not recognized as such. Justices BV Nagarathna and Augustine George Masih emphasized the significance of official recognition by the President under Article 342 of the Indian Constitution for a community to be designated as ST. Referring to past judgments, the Court highlighted the contextual variation in caste and tribe recognition across states. The ruling underscores the necessity of strict compliance with Article 342 and rejects the notion of automatic ST status based on recognition in a native state.


Chandigarh Housing Board v. Tarsem Lal

2024 Livelaw (SC) 139

Supreme Court

Coram: Justices BV Nagarathna And Augustine George Masih

  • The appellant, Chandigarh Housing Board issued a call for applications for the allocation of houses exclusively targeting individuals from Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs).
  • Among the prerequisites for applicants was the condition of being a domicile of the Union Territory of Chandigarh or having maintained residency for a minimum of three years preceding the application submission date.
  • One such applicant was Tarsem Lal identified as the respondent in this case.
  • Hailing from the ST community as recognized in his native state i.e. Rajasthan, Tarsem Lal had been a permanent resident of Chandigarh for twenty years.
  • Consequently, he applied for house allocation under the scheme. Despite meeting the eligibility criteria, Tarsem Lal was denied house allocation.
  • Dissatisfied with this outcome, he pursued legal recourse by approaching the Civil Court which ruled in his favor.
  • Subsequently, the Housing Board’s appeal was dismissed by the High Court.
  • Consequently, the matter was brought before the Supreme Court against this backdrop.

During the appeal’s adjudication, the Supreme Court referred to several significant precedents. Notably in Marri Chandra Shekhar Rao v. Dean, Seth G. S. Medical College (1990) 3 SCC 130, the Court observed that migration to a state lacking special rights for an individual does not violate the right to equality. Additionally, the Court cited the ruling of the Constitution Bench in Action Committee v. Union of India (1994) 5 SCC 244 which concurred with the earlier reasoning. It stated that due to varying social contexts, the recognition of certain castes, tribes or classes in one state may not apply in another state where migrants settle.

Furthermore, reference was made to Bir Singh v. Delhi Jal Board (2018) wherein it was held that mere recognition of a caste as Scheduled Caste in the migrant state does not automatically confer such status on the migrant.

In light of these judgments, the Court noted that the advertisement in the present case was issued without strict compliance with Article 342 rendering it erroneous. Consequently, the Court found that the appellant had mistakenly issued the advertisement inviting applications from both Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes as reservations for Scheduled Tribes could not be made without adhering strictly to Article 342.

Moreover, the Court opined that the notification calling for applications from both Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes did not provide any benefit without a Presidential Order under Article 342. This fundamental discrepancy works against the respondent and the appellant’s invitation to Scheduled Tribes contradicted prevailing laws and principles. Therefore, the respondent cannot claim estoppel against the appellant, the Court concluded.


The Supreme Court ruled that an individual identified as a Scheduled Tribe (ST) in one state cannot automatically claim the same designation in another state or Union Territory where they have migrated if that tribe is not officially recognized as ST in the latter region. Justices BV Nagarathna and Augustine George Masih emphasized the importance of public notification by the President as mandated by Article 342 of the Indian Constitution for any tribal community to be recognized as ST. Article 342 specifies that the President after consulting with the Governor must officially designate any Tribal Community as ST.

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