What would be the caste status of a child born out of an inter-caste marriage between a forward caste man and a scheduled caste/tribe woman to avail of quota benefits in education and government jobs?
Maintaining that it would depend upon the facts and circumstances of a particular case, the Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that children born out of inter-caste wedlock cannot be denied the benefits of reservation merely on the ground that one of the parents belonged to an upper caste.
A bench headed by justice Aftab Alam reversed the Gujarat high court's verdict denying quota benefits ST category to Rameshbhai Dabhai Naika whose father was a Kshatriya (a forward caste) and mother an ST.
The HC had upheld the Gujarat's governement’s decision cancelling the tribal certificate earlier obtained by Naika on the sole ground that his father was a non-tribal, belonging to the Hindu caste Kshatriya. As a result, Naika lost his tribal status and a fair price shop allotted to him on that basis.
The SC said: "In an inter-caste marriage or a marriage between a tribal and a non-tribal the determination of the caste of offspring is essentially a question of fact to be decided on the basis of the facts adduced in each case.
"The determination of caste of a person born of an inter-caste marriage or a marriage between a tribal and a non-tribal cannot be determined in complete disregard of attending facts of the case," the SC said.
The SC said in an inter-caste marriage or a marriage between a tribal and a non-tribal there may be a presumption that the child has the caste of the father.
"This presumption may be stronger in the case where in the inter-caste marriage or a marriage between a tribal and a non-tribal the husband belongs to a forward caste. But by no means the presumption is conclusive ... it is open to the child of such marriage to lead evidence to show that he/she was brought up by the mother who belonged to the SC/ST," it said.