The Madras High Court has reiterated that caste of a person is determined on the basis of birth and it cannot be changed by virtue of marriage.
"…deprivations, indignities and humiliates faced by the member of the Community is the real test and mere marriage or conversion can never be put against a person, who was actually born in the Scheduled Caste Community."
The order was passed by Justice N. Anand Venkatesh, while adjudicating upon a petition filed by one K. Shanthi, through Advocate R. Karunanidhi, seeking directions to the District Collector to pay her the relief amount as per the Rule 12 (4) of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Rules, 2016.
This provision obligates an Executive Magistrate to make necessary administrative and other arrangements and provide relief in cash or in kind or both within seven days to the victims of atrocity, their family members and dependents according to the scale as provided.
The Petitioner was allegedly a victim of offences punishable under Sections 294(b), 324 and 506 of IPC r/w 3 (1) (s) of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 2014. These offences relate to abuse (by caste), causing hurt voluntarily and criminal intimidation. For that reason, a case was also pending before the Special Court.
In the mean time, the Petitioner had sought compensation of a sum of Rs.1,50,000/- under Rule 12(4) of the Rules, 2016 but her representation was not considered by the Collector.
During the trial, the Additional PP, S. Chandrasekaran submitted that the Petitioner was not entitled to the compensation sought for as on an independent enquiry conducted by the District Collector, it was found that even though she belonged to the Scheduled Community by birth, she now followed Christianity. He clarified that her husband had converted himself to Christianity and belonged to the Backward Class and therefore, the Petitioner would also come under the Backward Class Community.
Dismissing this argument, Justice Venkatesh said that merely because the Petitioner's husband was a Christian, would not ipso facto mean that she too was a Christian. He said,
"There is absolutely no material to show that the petitioner has also converted herself into a Christian. Even if the husband of the petitioner is following Christianity, that does not automatically make the petitioner a Christian and her original status, wherein, she belongs to the Scheduled Caste Community, will continue."
Further clarifying that caste of a person was not affected by marriage, he said,
"Caste of a person has to be determined only based on the birth and it cannot be changed by virtue of marriage. The real test is that one should have suffered dis-abilities socially, economically and educationally."
Reliance was placed on Sunita Singh v. State of UP & Ors., (2018) 2 SCC 493, wherein the Apex Court had indisputably held,
"There cannot be dispute that the caste is determined by birth and the caste cannot be changed by marriage with a person of Scheduled Caste…Merely because her husband is belonging to a Scheduled Caste category, the appellant should not have been issued with a caste certificate showing her caste as Scheduled Caste."
Further censuring the feeble defence taken by the State, the court said that the Collector's stand was opposed to the Police's findings which had recognized the Petitioner as a person belonging to the Scheduled Caste Community in its final report and had committed the same to the Special Court. In this regard, it said,
"If such stand is taken, it is not known as to how the respondent Police will be able to sustain the final report that has already been filed for the offence under various Sections of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Act. It is, therefore, clear that such contradictory stand has been taken only to deprive the petitioner compensation for which, she is entitled under the above said Rules."
Accordingly, the Collector was directed to pay compensation worth Rs.1,50,000/- (75% total relief of Rs.2,00,000/-) to the Petitioner in accordance with Rule 12(4) of Rules, 2016 within six weeks.