Centre justifies no SC tag for Dalit Muslims, Christians in Supreme Court

Updated on Nov 10, 2022 05:22 AM IST

Currently, the constitutional right to reservations in jobs and education as a member of the SC community is extended only to people from Hindu, Sikh or Buddhist faiths, in accordance with the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950.

The government informed the court that it has last month formed a three-member panel headed by former CJI KG Balakrishnan to examine whether SC status can be granted to Dalit Muslims and Christians. (PTI)
The government informed the court that it has last month formed a three-member panel headed by former CJI KG Balakrishnan to examine whether SC status can be granted to Dalit Muslims and Christians. (PTI)

The Union government on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that Scheduled Caste (SC) status has not been granted to groups that claim to have been Dalits in the past but converted to Islam or Christianity because social stigma such as untouchability is not prevalent in these two religions.

Currently, the constitutional right to reservations in jobs and education as a member of the SC community is extended only to people from Hindu, Sikh or Buddhist faiths, in accordance with the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950.

Seeking to repel the legal challenge to the 1950 order laid by a batch of petitions that want the umbrella of reservation be extended also to Dalit people who have converted to Christianity or Islam, the Centre said that identification of SC is centered around a specific social stigma and the connected backwardness which is limited to the communities recognised under the 1950 Order.

“The Constitution (Scheduled Caste) Order, 1950 was based on historical data which clearly established that no such backwardness or oppression was ever faced by members of Christian or Islamic Society. In fact, one of the reasons for which people from Scheduled Castes have been converting to religions like Islam or Christianity is so that they can come out of the oppressive system of untouchability which is not prevalent at all in Christianity or Islam,” argued the government.

It added that there is also no documented research and precise authenticated information available to establish that the disabilities and handicaps suffered by Scheduled Caste members in the social order of its origin (Hinduism) persists with their oppressive severity in the environment.

According to the Centre, it would cause a grave injustice and would be an abuse of the process of law, consequently affecting the rights of the SC groups if all the converts are arbitrarily given the perks of reservation without examining the aspect of social disability.

It further justified extending the reservation benefits to Buddhists while denying it to Muslims and Christians, arguing that not only the nature of conversions is different but the original caste of those converting to Buddhism can also be ascertained.

“SCs embraced Buddhism voluntarily at the call of Dr Ambedkar in 1956 on account of some innate socio-political imperatives. The original castes/ community of such converts can clearly be determined. This cannot be said in respect of Christians and Muslims, who might have converted on account of other factors, since the process of such conversions has been taken place over the centuries,” said the affidavit.

Calling the 2007 Report of Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission that which favoured SC status for Dalits in all religions “flawed,” the affidavit told the court that the report has not been accepted by the Centre because it was prepared without conducting any field studies and also failed to into account the effect that the inclusion would have on the present castes listed as SCs.

The government informed the court that it has last month formed a three-member panel headed by former CJI KG Balakrishnan to examine whether SC status can be granted to Dalit Muslims and Christians.

The development came roughly a month after a bench led by justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul on August 30 asked the Centre to explain its stand on petitions that raised this demand. The case was pending for 18 years, but the apex court said that the day had come to take a call on issues with social ramifications. The court is expected to hear this case later this month.

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