An advocacy group called ‘Dalit Positive Movement’ from Kanpur Uttar Pradesh has written to Chief Justice DY Chandrachud objecting to his comments about Scheduled Caste reservation for Christians and Muslims, an issue that is presently under consideration of a different bench of the Supreme Court, terming the comments "most unfortunate".

In his speech on 25 November at the LawAsia Annual Conference in Bengaluru on the subject, “Identity, the Individual, and the State: New Paths to Liberty”, the CJI spoke about affirmative action, while referring to the plea before the Supreme Court challenging exclusion of Muslims and Christians from Scheduled Caste, that was once listed before former Chief Justice Bobde. “I remember that one of my predecessors Chief Justice Sharad Bobde recognized the necessity to consider the social exclusion of Christians and Muslims from the Scheduled Cast, reinforcing the urgency of addressing these issues”, the CJI had said. The then Chief Justice Bobde had issued notice in one of the cases that is now part of a large batch of cases which include a PIL filed by CPIL in the year 2004.

The letter written by the group says that by his remarks during the speech, that “caste dynamics in the region are not exclusively shaped by religious affiliations” and that “implicit in our conversation around identity is our assumption that people hold one identity at a time, how untrue, in the context of the pending cases before the Supreme Court, the CJI has “clearly expressed support for the case of the petitioners in the said batch of pending cases”.

The letter also refers to the CJI’s comment that the Sachar Committee Report and the Ranganath Mishra Committee Report have brought attention to the widespread abuses faced by marginalized communities and that the findings in the said reports underscore the pressing need for affirmative action to address deeply rooted discrimination.

By saying that the Ranganath Mishra Committee Report underscores the pressing need for affirmative action to address deeply rooted discrimination, you have clearly endorsed the Committee’s report while the Central Government, a party to the pending cases before the Supreme Court, has rejected the report terming it “flawed” and its findings as arrived at without field studies. Pursuant to the insistence of the petitioners that the Supreme Court should rely on it, the Court has already framed a question as to whether the report can be relied upon, and to what extent, as per an order dated 12th April, 2023”, the letter says. CJI’s remarks on the Ranganath Mishra Committee Report were earlier reported by Verdictum (read here).

The letter says, “It is most unfortunate that you choose to publicly express views favouring one side in a highly contested litigation that is pending before the Supreme Court, and we strongly object to what you have done. The outcome of the said batch of cases will have a huge bearing on the existing Scheduled Caste communities, beyond the parties who are before the Supreme Court. As an organization working to protect the interest of the Scheduled Caste communities, we are now worried whether Scheduled Caste communities will get justice from the Supreme Court on the said issue”.

The group has marked a copy of the letter to the President of India and says in the letter that the batch of cases on the issue is now pending before the bench headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul who is due to retire on 25 November and thereafter, the CJI Chandrachud should not be the one to even assign the case to another bench on the administrative side as the “Master of the Roster”. “As you know, the batch of cases is now being listed before the Bench headed by Justice SK Kaul who will retire on 25th December, 2023. We are writing this letter to you to call upon you to not only never list the said batch of cases before any bench that you are part of, you must also not select the bench that will hear the matter, in your capacity as the master of the roster”, the letter says.

The group concludes its letter by saying that CJI Chandrachud must stop expressing views in public on issues under consideration of the Supreme Court or any other Court while being the Chief Justice of the country.

The batch of cases seeking Scheduled Caste reservation for converts to Christianity and Islam was heard by a Bench of Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Justice Ahsanuddin Amanullah and Justice Aravind Kumar, which had passed a detailed order.

The Centre, in October last year, appointed a Commission of Inquiry headed by former CJI, Justice KG Balakrishnan to inquire into whether the benefit of Scheduled Caste can be extended to those from the community who have converted to other religions. The Commission is to submit its report within two years.