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To ?Scheduled Caste? tag through marriage?

IN THE present era of reservation, belonging to a Scheduled Caste (SC) or a Scheduled Tribe (ST) is a privilege. But can an upper-caste Hindu girl?s ?mere marriage? with an SC boy be enough to ?transplant? her into the caste of her husband?

india Updated: Apr 03, 2006 01:25 IST
JB Sinha
JB Sinha
None

IN THE present era of reservation, belonging to a Scheduled Caste (SC) or a Scheduled Tribe (ST) is a privilege. But can an upper-caste Hindu girl’s ‘mere marriage’ with an SC boy be enough to ‘transplant’ her into the caste of her husband?

In other words, would that entitle the girl to acquire an SC tag and then lay hands on the ‘privileges’ that belong to an SC woman. Thereby hanged a legal question, which arose before the Supreme Court recently in the case of Meera Kanwaria vs Sunita.

As the question was debated upon and finally settled by the apex court, Sunita, a Rajput by caste, realised much to her chagrin that her marriage with an SC boy and her subsequent successful contest for a Delhi Municipal Corporation seat from a constituency reserved for an SC woman candidate, had all turned sour.

Sunita was married according to Hindu rites with an SC Jatav boy, Ghanshyam, in Delhi. But, following an election petition, the Delhi district judge set aside her election to the municipal corporation from a constituency reserved for an SC woman candidate.

The district judge upheld the plea that Sunita could not be considered to be belonging to SC by reason of her ‘mere marriage’ with Ghanshyam, and something more than that was required. However, the Delhi High Court overturned the district judge’s verdict, and, as it happens, the dispute went up to the apex court in appeal.What is the decisive test to determine the caste of an upper-caste Hindu girl who gets married to a boy belonging to a reserved caste category?

Does the marriage automatically make her too belong to the SC thereafter? The Delhi High Court’s judgment in favour of Sunita said that since here marriage had been accepted by the ‘family’ of her SC husband, it was enough to ‘transplant’ her into Scheduled Caste.

The apex court decision (2006(1) AWC 679), which went against Sunita, ruled that “a person who is a high-caste Hindu and not subjected to any ‘social or educational backwardness’ in his or her life cannot by reason of ‘marriage alone’ ipso facto become a member of Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe”. What needed to be additionally proved is that the marriage, in question, had been accepted by the SC or ST ‘community’ to which the spouse belonged.How things stood in the case of Sunita? Her marriage with the Jatav boy, Ghanshyam, was undoubtedly solemnised according to Vedic Hindu rites.

It was also a proven fact that elders in Ghanshyam’s family had accepted his marriage with Sunita. “But,” ruled the apex court, “it is one thing to say that a lady belonging to a forward caste has been accepted by the ‘community’ to which her husband belongs, but is it is another thing to say that her marriage has been accepted only by the ‘family’ of her husband.”The question about the ‘change of caste’ in view of her marriage might be relevant in relation to Hindus, but when the question of ‘change of caste’ is referable to the category belonging to a special class of citizens who require ‘protective discrimination’ and ‘affirmative action’, a different rule will apply, the Supreme Court observed.

Without a strict proof about the marriage of a high-caste Hindu girl with an SC boy having been accepted by the SC ‘community’, in question, one cannot be allowed to ‘defeat’ the very provisions made by the State for reserving certain seats for disadvantaged people, the court added.

In this case, no panchayat of the Jatav community had been held to accept Sunita as a member of Jatav caste, to which her husband, Ghanshyam, belonged.

In the absence of proof of the fact that Sunita had been accepted as a member of Scheduled Caste by the ‘community’, as contra-distinguished from acceptance of her marriage only by her husband’s ‘family’, she could not claim the benefit of reservation, the apex court ruled.

The result: Sunita’s election to the Delhi municipal corporation from a constituency reserved for an SC woman candidate stood nullified.