Gavel Law Insider

Sakina Tashrifwala

Published on: November 10, 2022 at 21:10 IST

The Centre submitted its reply against in opposition to a petition that asks for Dalits who have converted to Christianity and Islam to be given Scheduled Caste status.

Since it does not grant Scheduled Caste status to people who convert to religions other than Hinduism, Sikhism, and Buddhism, the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order of 1950 is discriminatory and in violation of Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution, the petitioner asks for a declaration to that effect.

The Centre responded to the petitioner’s argument by saying, Beyond “social and economic backwardness,” Scheduled Caste identity and reservations serve other purposes.

“It is argued that only the communities listed in the Constitution [Scheduled Castes] Order, 1950, experience the special social stigma [and the associated backwardness with such stigma] that serves as the basis for the designation of scheduled castes.”

The Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission’s report, which supported giving Dalits of all religions the Scheduled Caste status, was criticised by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment as being flawed because it was written without any field research and, as a result, could not be supported by the actual situation.

The Centre claimed that the Commission had a narrow perspective of India’s socioeconomic landscape and had failed to consider how inclusion would affect the castes now recognised as Scheduled Castes; as a result, the Government had rejected the Commission’s recommendations.

According to the Government’s affidavit, the Union has established a three-person commission under the leadership of former Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan to investigate the issue of granting SC status to individuals who claim to have belonged to the Scheduled Caste but have converted to other religions.

In Neither Islam Nor Christianity is Untouchability Common

The Government went on to claim that the rationale for the exclusion of Christianity and Islam was because neither religion practised the repressive regime of untouchability.

“The Constitution (Scheduled Caste) Order, 1950 was based on historical evidence that amply demonstrated that members of Christian or Islamic society had never experienced such persecution or backwardness.”

“In reality, one of the main motivations for people from Scheduled Castes to convert to religions like Islam or Christianity is to escape the harsh Untouchability system, which is not present at all in either of those two faiths.”

The National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities’ report contained a dissenting note, which the Centre also cited.

It stated that because Christianity and Islam are fundamentally foreign religions that do not recognise caste systems, conferring SC status on converts would be equivalent to introducing caste systems in those religions.

“The great social, educational, and economic backwardness resulting from the long-standing Hindu tradition of untouchability is the criterion used to determine whether a caste or group is suitable for inclusion on the list of Scheduled Castes.”

“Because Hindu society is characterised by the caste system and its accompanying customs and practises of untouchability, the system of special representation for Scheduled Castes was historically developed specifically in relation to the position of castes within Hindu society that were impacted by the practise of untouchability.”

“Christianity was intended to be an egalitarian religion that did not recognise caste and was therefore in opposition to untouchability practises.”

Christian or Islamic Communities Do Not Practise the Oppressive System of Untouchability

“The Constitution (Scheduled Caste) Order of 1950 is not illegal in the sense that it excluded Christianity and Islam since those societies did not practise the cruel Untouchability system that causes some Hindu castes to be economically and socially backward.”

“According to reliable evidence, Christian or Islamic society was just as harsh toward Scheduled Castes as Hindu society had been for hundreds of years “.

Buddhism Conversion is Distinct from Conversion to Islam or Christianity

The Centre provided the following justification for the addition of Sikhism and Buddhism to the Presidential Order:

“Therefore, the treatment accorded to Sikh and Buddhist converts cannot be used as a model for how Christians from Scheduled Castes should be treated. In addition, conversions to Buddhism have taken on a different character than conversions to Christianity.”

“Converts from the Scheduled Castes to Buddhism did so voluntarily at Dr. Ambedkar’s invitation in 1956 because of some underlying socio-political imperatives. Such converts’ originating castes or communities can be identified with certainty.”

“This cannot be claimed in regards to Christians and Muslims who may have converted due to other reasons, as such conversions have occurred over the course of centuries.”

The Centre continued, “There is also no documented research and precise authenticated information available to establish that the handicaps and disabilities experienced by Scheduled Caste members in the social order of their origin (Hinduism) persist with their oppressive severity in the environment of Christianity/Islam.”

When a Person Converts to Another Faith, They Lose Their Caste

The Centre said the following, citing numerous legal precedents:

“It is established that when a person converts to a different religion, they lose their caste. The only way this can be reversed is if it can be shown that the person who has chosen a different religion still has social disabilities, that he is adhering to the customs and traditions of the community to which he once belonged, and that he is also accepted by other caste members as a member of that tribe/caste.”

“Without these guiding principles, it would be gravely unfair and an abuse of the legal system if all converts and convertees were arbitrarily granted the benefits of reservation intended only for SCs without carefully considering the aforementioned factors. This would have an impact on SCs’ rights.”

Court Cannot Order the Modification of a Presidential Order

The Government further emphasised in its affidavit that Article 341 gives the President of India the authority to name the castes, races, tribes, or other groupings that will be considered Scheduled Castes for the purposes of the Constitution.

According to Article 341, the President must make the choice after consulting with the state governors.

The affidavit further highlighted a number of Supreme Court rulings and informed the Court that its only authority rested in implementing the President’s notification under Article 341 of the Constitution.

Classification Using Discernible Differences

The Government also argued that the only prerequisite for creating a specific classification or an unique piece of legislation is that the classification be based on an understandable difference that has a reasonable relationship to the goal that the law is intended to pursue.

The Central Government has determined that there is an understandable distinction between Scheduled Castes who have converted to other religions and Scheduled Castes who are included in the contested order, it was further argued.

The Government also argued that the twin test of classification should be used in classification-related concerns and said that, “There can be no reasonable argument against the classification of the current situation between Indian citizens and foreigners. It is commonly known that Article 14 does not restrict classification but does prohibit class legislation.”

“Such social issues are certainly not judicial interventions,” the affidavit stated, “but it should be remembered that this Hon’ble Court has always held that Courts must give appropriate deference to the wisdom of the Parliament/President in these situations.”

Related Post