‘Social ramifications’ notwithstanding: SC seeks Centre’s response on reservation benefit extension

The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Central government to clarify its stand on whether reservation benefits enjoyed by Scheduled Castes can be extended to Dalits after they convert to Islam, Christianity, Buddhism or any religion apart from Hinduism.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, submitted that the matter involves social ramifications.

A bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Abhay S. Oka, and Vikram Nath said the matter was not listed for a long time, and “there are social ramifications, but we have to take a call”.

The bench orally remarked that old matters are pending because there are social ramifications.

“We will have to face reality some time or the other,” it noted. Some of the petitioners have contended that Dalit Christians or Christians of Scheduled Caste origin should enjoy the same quota benefits reserved for Scheduled Castes.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, representing one of the petitioners, submitted that earlier government had appointed Justice Ranganath Misra Commission, which gave a very detailed report on the issue and recommended Dalits, who convert to another religion, should get reservation. However, Mehta said that “he missed the point that the government of the day did not accept the recommendations of the commission on the ground that they have not taken into consideration several facts”.

The top court asked the Central government to submit its response in the matter in three weeks and scheduled the matter for hearing in October.

A petitioner has sought direction for reservation for government jobs and admissions in educational institutions should be made “religion neutral”.

Citing the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950 restricts Christians of Scheduled Caste origin from availing the Scheduled Castes status, the petitioners have argued that this restriction was against the fundamental right to equality, non-discrimination, and religious freedom.

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