Plea For SC Status To Dalit Christians- Supreme Court To Consider Whether To Await Report Of Justice K. G. Balakrishnan Commission
The Supreme Court today adjourned a batch of cases challenging the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950 and seeking Scheduled Caste status for Scheduled Caste converts to Christianity to January, to consider whether it should await the report of the newly appointed Commission headed by former Chief Justice K. G. Balakrishnan.
The three-judge Bench of Justice S. K. Kaul, Justice Justice Abhay S Oka and Justice Vikram Nath said that it will have to consider whether the Court should await the report of the new commission appointed by the Center since the petitioners have contended that the case can be considered on the basis of the Ranganath Mishra Commission report.
The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment had issued a notification appointing a Commission of Inquiry with the former Chief Justice of India, Justice K. G. Balakrishnan as the Chairman and Dr. Ravinder Kumar Jain, a retired IAS officer and Prof. Dr. Sushma Yadav, a member of the UGC, as members of the Commission to inquire into whether the benefit of Scheduled Caste can be extended to those from the community who have converted to other religions.
Today, Advocate Prashant Bhushan appearing for CPIL submitted that the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950 is discriminatory. "Ranganath Mishra Commission says that this is totally discriminatory and unconstitutional. You can't discriminate on the basis of religion", Bushan said.
He opposed the centre's request to adjourn the matters, made in their affidavit, saying that this is a short legal question. "Even if the new commission finds that these communities are backward, they can't put those communities in the scheduled caste because of this constitutional order", he said.
A Senior Advocate on behalf of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, an intervening party, submitted that it supports the petition of the CPIL fully.
"Government had taken a decision not to accept the Rangnath Mishra Commission report", Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted on behalf of the Union, pointing out that a new commission has been appointed. He pointed out by reading from the affidavit of the Center that communities presently in the Scheduled Caste list have opposed the request to include persons of other religions.
The Center had filed an affidavit opposing the plea for Scheduled Caste status for Scheduled Caste converts to Christianity.
The affidavit of the Center said that 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 said.
A Muslim group, Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind has also approached the Supreme Court challenging the exclusion of the Muslim community from benefits granted to Scheduled caste persons.
As per the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950, no person who professes a religion different from Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism can be a member of a Scheduled Caste.