No SC tag for dalit Christians, Muslims?
Mar 17, 2011
NEW DELHI: The Centre seems tilted against the inclusion of "dalit" Christians and Muslims in the Scheduled Castes list, arguing the need for evidence to show that converts continued to face discrimination of the same degree as before their exit from the Hindu fold.
The Union law ministry has cited a Supreme Court judgment dismissing the claim that the constitutional provision limiting the SC tag to Hindus/Sikhs was discriminatory. The UPA is learnt to favour status quo on the back of law ministry's view coupled with the opinion of the National Commission for SCs — that the touchstone of being a dalit was if converts followed traditions and customs as before conversion and suffered the same social disabilities.
The contentious issue is before the apex court and the Centre has marshalled opinion from its key arms to finalize its stand. A senior minister who was part of recent discussion in the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs, suggested caution, telling TOI: "The Constitution cannot be tinkered with in a casual manner."
The issue is politically sensitive. Dalits, as articulated by NCSC, have opposed stretching the frontiers of SC list to outside Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist fold, arguing that the fresh addition would encroach on their share of 15% job quota.
The law ministry has added a strong caveat for continuing with the existing regime by quoting a 1985 SC ruling that quashed a claim that the 'constitutional order 1950, para 3' discriminated against Christians.
The Soosai vs UOI, 1985, ruling said the President of India had based his judgment on the definition of SCs on the material showing that Hindus/Sikhs "suffered from economic and social disabilities and cultural and educational backwardness so gross in character..."
The apex court said, "to prove the said clause as discriminatory in nature, it must be shown that they (converts) suffer from comparable depth of social and economic disabilities and cultural backwardness and similar level of degradation within the Christian community..."
The court noted that merely showing continuance of caste after conversion was not sufficient. "It is necessary to establish further that the disabilities and handicaps suffered from such caste membership in Hinduism continue in their oppressive severity in the new environment of a different religious community," it said.
The law ministry told the Centre that the spirit of the apex court order had to be taken into account while deciding the issue. The NCSC said it had not conducted any study to establish the truth either way.