The Center has filed an affidavit opposing the plea seeking Scheduled Caste status for Scheduled Caste converts to Christianity. The affidavit has been filed by the Under Secretary in the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, on behalf of the Union of India.

The affidavit states at Christianity is an egalitarian religion which does not recognize caste. It states that the criteria followed in deciding whether a caste or community is eligible for inclusion in the list of Scheduled Caste is extreme social, educational and economic backwardness arising out of traditional practices of untouchability practised by Hindus since time immemorial. "In its conception, Christianity is an egalitarian religion which does not recognised caste and is therefore antithetical to practice of untouchability", the affidavit says.

The Center says that it has received objections from representatives of Scheduled Castes against granting that status to new persons. It says that since the matter is a seminal and historically complex sociological and constitutional question and a definite matter of public importance it has appointed a Commission headed by Ex-CJI Justice K. G. Balakrishnan to examine the issue and submit a report in two years.

After referring to Explanation II of Article 25, the Center says that conversion to Buddhism has been different from conversions to Christianity. "Scheduled Castes converts to Buddhism embraced Buddhism voluntarily at the call 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 to 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", the Center says.

The Center also says that the demand for the inclusion of Scheduled Castes converts to Christianity and Islam has been rejected in past by the Registrar General of India and the National Commission for SC/ST.

The Center points out in the affidavit that in some states SC converted to Christianity and certain communities converted to Islam are included in the OBC list. "It is further stated that Scheduled Caste converts to Christianity and Islam are also entitled to benefits of Schemes and Programmes being implemented by the Government for the Minorities", the affidavit says.

The Center says that there is no documented research and precise authenticated information available to establish that the liabilities and handicaps by SC members in the social order of its origin (Hinduism) persist with the oppressive severity in the environment of Christianity or Islam. Center refers to old studies conducted in this regard in Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

The Center says that untouchability which leads to economic and social backwardness of some Hindu castes was not prevalent in Christian or Islamic Society and that historical data establish the same.

The Center says that ST converted to Christianity cannot be compared with SC converted to Christianity. It relies on Judgments to argue that a determination under Article 341 is final and the Courts have no power except to give effect to the Notification issued by the President of India.

The Center has contended that there is no discrimination or violation of Article 14 of the Constitution in the matter and that Courts have already recognised the benefit being limited to religions mentioned in the 1950 order. It has also contended that courts must give due regard to the wisdom of the Parliament and the President on plenary social legislations.

Click here to read/download Center's affidavit