Chief Justice of India, Dr. DY Chandrachud has endorsed the Ranganath Misra Commission Report and the Sachar Commission Report while speaking virtually at the 36th Lawasia Annual Conference at Bengaluru on Saturday. The CJI was speaking on the subject “Identity, the Individual, and the State: New Paths to Liberty”.

The intricate caste system is not merely a response to historical inequalities but functions as a potent tool for disrupting entrenched societal structures. Reports such as the Sachar Committee Report and Ranganath Mishra Committee Report have brought attention to the widespread abuses faced by marginalized communities, including social segregation, untouchability, limited access to education, and underrepresentation”, the CJI said.

The CJI also added that “These findings underscore the pressing need for affirmative action to address deeply rooted discrimination”.

By saying that the Reports underscore the need for affirmative action, the CJI has endorsed the reports, while the Central Government has strongly opposed the Ranganath Mishra Commission before the Supreme Court. The Centre has informed the Supreme Court that the Report is “flawed” and that the findings in the report are without field studies.

The Centre has taken that stand in the batch of cases seeking Scheduled Caste status for those who have converted from those communities to Christianity or Islam. An affidavit that was filed in October last year by the Under Secretary in the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment on behalf of the Union of India, says, "..the report of Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission is flawed since the report bases its findings without any field studies. The findings of the Commission therefore cannot be corroborated by actual situation on the ground since no field study was done".

While the Centre says that the Commission has taken a “myopic view of the social milieu” in the country, Chief Justice Chandrachud says that the findings in the report underscore the pressing need for affirmative action. The Commission further has taken a myopic view of the social milieu in India and does not contemplate the impact of inclusion in the SC list on present castes listed as Scheduled Castes”, the Centre had said in its affidavit.

Moreover, in tune with their stand that the Ranganath Misra Commission report cannot be relied upon, the Centre had 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.

More importantly, the CJI’s remarks have come when the Supreme Court is set to consider whether, and to what extent, can it rely upon the Report of the Ranganath Misra Commission, in the pleas seeking Scheduled Caste status for Christians and Muslims.

In April this year, a Bench of Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Justice Ahsanuddin Amanullah and Justice Aravind Kumar while considering the said batch of cases passed an order stating, “Another issue which has been flagged is as to what is the effect of the report of a Commission of Enquiry which is rejected/not accepted by the Government i.e. whether the empirical data stated to have formed the basis of the report can be looked into for purposes of determination of the Constitutional issues as the empirical data would have bearing in view of the observations in the judgment of this Court in Soosai Etc. v. Union of India & Ors. - (1985) Suppl. SCC 590 at para 8”, in reference to the Ranganath Misra Commission report. (read report)

The aforesaid would require some time to debate the issues as to how to proceed with the matter. In any case, we will have to take up the matter for the said determination”, the Court said further in its order.

During the hearing, after which the said order was passed, Justice Kaul was circumspect of relying on the Ranganath Misra Commission report while Justice Ahsanuddin Amanullah was more in favour of doing so.

"There is no difficulty in examining the constitutional position. What will be the status of the Ranganath Misra Commission report? How do we rely on the report that has not been accepted by the centre", Justice Kaul had asked. "Only imperial data from the report can be relied upon. Not the findings or opinions in the report", Justice Amanullah had said. "If a report is not accepted, what is the status of the finding or empirical data? Can we accept the imperial data from a report is not accepted", Justice Kaul had then asked.

In fact, CJI Chandrachud refers to the said batch of cases in his speech. The CJI said, “I remember that Chief Justice Bobde recognized the necessity to consider the social exclusion of Christians and Muslims from the Scheduled Caste, reinforcing the urgency of addressing these issues”. The CJI was probably referring to the fact that a Bench headed by the then Chief Justice Bobde had issued notice in one of the cases in the batch of cases in January, 2020. The batch of cases also includes a case filed in the year 2004 by CPIL.

In March this year, the Kerala High Court had declared the election of a Communist Party of India (Marxist) MLA void after the Court found based on evidence that the MLA was actually professing Christianity at the time when he had submitted his nomination in a constituency reserved for Scheduled Caste candidates. An SLP against that order is also pending before the Supreme Court.

In January last year, the Madras High Court had referred to the phenomenon of "crypto-Christians" in Tamil Nadu availing benefits of reservation post religious conversion. "I refrain from mentioning the name of a Judge who belonged to such a category. There was even a writ petition challenging his status. Everyone pretended as if they did not know the truth. But when he died, he was buried as per Christian rites in a cemetery", the High Court had said in its order. (read column)