Sunday, December 3, 2023

Untouchability not prevalent in Christianity, Islam: Union on SC status for converted Dalits

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The Union government has defended the exclusion of Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims from the list of Scheduled Castes, saying historical data shows no backwardness or oppression was ever faced by them.

Contending that Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims cannot claim benefits which Scheduled Castes are entitled to, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment in an affidavit in the Supreme Court said the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order of 1950 does not suffer from any unconstitutionality, PTI news agency reported.

The petitioner, NGO Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL), seeks a declaration that the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order 1950 is discriminatory and violative of Article 14 and 15 of the Constitution as it does not confer Scheduled Caste status to persons converting to religions other than Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism.

The NDA government submitted that the identification of Scheduled Castes is centred around a specific social stigma that is limited to the communities identified in the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950.

The Constitution (Scheduled Caste) Order, 1950, “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 that leads to economic and social backwardness of some Hindu castes was not prevalent in Christian or Islamic societies”, read the affidavit said.

The Union government said that the Report of Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission (which favoured Scheduled Caste status for Dalits in all religions) is flawed as the report was created without conducting any field studies and thus cannot be corroborated with the situation on the ground. The Union stated that the said Commission had taken a myopic view of the social environment in India and has not taken into account the effect that the inclusion would have on the present castes listed as Scheduled Castes and thus the Government had not accepted the findings of the Justice Ranganath Mishra commission.

Given the importance and sensitivity of the issue, the Union has constituted a three member commission headed by former Chief Justice of India K. G. Balakrishnan to look into the issues of providing SC status to people who claim to have belonged to the Scheduled Caste but have converted to other religions, Narendra Modi government said.

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