The Central government has told the Supreme Court that plea seeking Scheduled Caste status to Dalits, who converted to Christianity and Islam, should not be allowed, since they did not suffer from untouchability.
On August 30, the apex court had asked the Centre to clarify its stand in the matter on the petitions filed by the National Council of Dalit Christians and others.
The Central government, in a written response, said: “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.”
It added that one of the reasons for which people from Scheduled Castes are converting to religions like Islam or Christianity, is to come out of the oppressive system of untouchability, a social stigma, which is not prevalent in either of these religions
The Centre’s response came on a batch of petitions seeking a direction to extend the benefit of reservation to Dalits converts to Christianity or Islam.
The Central government said the identification of SC status is centred around a specific social stigma and the connected backwardness which is limited to the communities recognised under the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950.
It contended that grave injustice would be caused and there would be 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.
The Central government, in October, appointed a Commission of Inquiry under chairmanship of former Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan to examine claims of granting Scheduled Caste status to the Dalits who have converted to other religions.
The government pointed out that the Scheduled Castes embraced Buddhism voluntarily at the call of Dr B.R. 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 taken place over the centuries,” it added.
The Centre also termed the 2007 report of Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission, favouring SC status for Dalits in all religions, as flawed and pointed out that it was prepared without conducting any field studies.
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 1950 order.