Quota can’t be offered to converted Dalits: Govt
The Centre on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that it had rejected the Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission’s recommendation to extend the benefits of reservation in jobs and education to Dalits who had converted to other religions, arguing that untouchability was historically prevalent only among Hindus and not in Islam or Christianity.
Solicitor-general Tushar Mehta placed before a bench headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul an affidavit on behalf of the Union ministry for social justice stating that the government had rejected the commission’s report, which according to it was “myopic”.
The government has instead recently appointed another commission headed by former Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan to examine the issue, the affidavit said.
The Centre defended the Constitution (Scheduled Caste) Order, 1950, which currently extends SC-ST reservation benefits only to the members of the Hindu community (along with Jains and Buddhists), and said it “does not suffer from any unconstitutionality inasmuch as the exclusion of Christianity or Islam was due to the reason that the oppressive system of untouchability which leads to economic and social backwardness of some Hindu castes was not prevalent in Christian or Islamic society.
“There is no authentic data to suggest that the oppressive environment that existed in Hindu society for hundreds of years qua Scheduled Castes also existed in Christian or Islamic society.”
According to the government, the Constitution (Scheduled Caste) Order, 1950, was “based on historical data which clearly established that no such backwardness or oppression was ever faced by members of Christian or Islamic society.
In fact, one of the reasons why people from Scheduled Castes have been converting to religions like Islam or Christianity is so that they can come out of the oppressive system of untouchability, which is not prevalent at all in Christianity or Islam.
“Therefore, once they have come out and ameliorated their social status by converting themselves to Christianity or Islam they cannot claim to be backward since backwardness based on untouchability is only prevalent in Hindu Society or its branches and not in any other religion.”
The government has filed the affidavit in response to a batch of petitions by the Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) and others challenging the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950, as being discriminatory and violative of Articles 14 (equality before law) and 15 (prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, etc) of the Constitution as it discriminated against Scheduled Caste converts to religions other than Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism.
The petitioners submitted that the social and economic disabilities of Scheduled Caste converts to Christianity continued to persist in most cases even after their conversion and in this regard there could not be any distinction between Scheduled Caste converts to Sikh and Buddhist religions and Scheduled Caste converts to the Christian religion.
Referring to the Ranganath Mishra Commission, the Centre said: “The Commission… has taken a myopic view of the social milieu in India and does not contemplate the impact of inclusions in the SC list on the present castes listed as Scheduled Castes. The findings of the said commission have been therefore not accepted by the government.”
According to the Union government, it has examined the issue raised by certain groups for revisiting the existing definition of Scheduled Castes by according the status to new persons who belong to other religions beyond those permitted through presidential order.
“It is noted that the said issue is a seminal and historically complex sociological and constitutional question, and a matter of public importance,” the government said, adding that it had appointed the Justice Balakrishnan Commission to examine the issue afresh.