'One Can't Carry His Caste After Conversion': Madras High Court Rejects Backward Quota Claim Of Man Who Converted To Islam From Hinduism
The Madras High Court recently observed that a person who has converted to another religion cannot claim the benefits of his community before conversion unless it is expressly granted by the State.
Justice GR Swaminathan of the Madurai bench was hearing the plea of a candidate challenging the action of the Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission in not treating him as "Backward Class (Muslim)" but considering him as "General" category in the Combined Civil Services Examination-II (Group-II Services).
The High Court further added that whether a person who has converted to another religion can be given the benefit of community reservation was a matter pending adjudication before the Supreme Court. Thus, it was not for the High Court to decide the matter.
As observed in S. Yasmine case, a person cannot carry his community of birth even after conversion. Whether such a person should be given the benefit of reservation even after conversion is a question that is pending adjudication before the Hon'ble Supreme Court. When the Hon'ble Supreme Court is seized of the matter, it is not for this Court to uphold the claim of the petitioner.
Thus, the court refused to interfere with the decision of the TNPSC and held that the decision of the commission was correct.
The petitioner was a Hindu belonging to Most Backward Class (DNC). He converted to Islam in 2008. It was also notified in the gazette and a community certificate was issued in 2015 by the Zonal Deputy Tahsildar certifying that the petitioner belongs to Labbais community(a group within Muslim community which has been notified as a backward class).
The petitioner cleared the preliminary written examination in Combined Civil Services Examination – II (Group-II Services). He also wrote the main examination in 2019. Since he was not included in the final selection list, he filed an RTI through which he came to know that the reason he was not included was that he was not treated under BC (Muslim) category.
The petitioner submitted that under Article 25 of the constitution, he had the freedom of conscience and the right to profess any religion. He submitted that the petitioner was exercising his fundamental right when he got converted to Islam. Further, since he enjoyed the status of most backward class before conversion and the fact that Muslims were recognised as Backward Class in the state, the petitioner should be considered as belonging to backward class community.
The State submitted that a similar matter was pending before the Supreme Court of India.
The court noted that the Government of Tamil Nadu, vide letters in 2010, 2012, 2017 and 2019 had laid down that the candidates who have converted to Islam from other religion will be considered only as "others category".
In Ispat Industries Ltd. vs. Commissioner of CustomsMumbai, the court that as per the hierarchy of laws in the country, the community certificate issued by the Deputy Tahsildar was below that of the Government letter. The court noted that Deputy Tahsildar had acted irregularly by breaching the mandate and therefore the recruitment agency was obliged to disregard such community certificate.
The court also looked at other precedents and noted that in G.Michael v. S.Venkateswaran, the Madras High Court had observed that when a member belonging to any caste or sub-caste converts to Islam he ceases to be a member of any caste. His place in Muslim society is not determined by the caste to which he belonged before his conversion. This decision was upheld by the Supreme Court in K.P.Manu v. Scrutiny Committee.
"The original caste remains under eclipse and as soon as the person is reconverted to the original religion, the eclipse disappears and the caste automatically revives", the High Court quoted from the Supreme Court precedent in KP Manu.
A similar view was taken by the Supreme Court in KailashSonkar v. Maya Devi wherein the court held that after conversion, the original caste remains under eclipse and as the person is reconverted to the original religion, the eclipse disappears and the caste automatically revives.
The court also took note of the view of the Madras High Court in a similar case in S.Yasmine v. The Secretary TNPSC, wherein the court held that the TNPSC was right in treating a candidate who converted to Islam as belonging to the category of "other communities".
Considering the precedents, the Government letter, and the pendency of a similar issue before the Supreme Court, the court deemed it fit not to interfere with the decision of the commission.
The Court also approached the issue from another angle. The entire Muslim community in Tamil Nadu has not been notified as a backward class. Only 7 groups within the Muslim community have been catalogued as backward classes, Labbais being one among them. In the certificate issued by a Kazi declaring the petitioner's conversion, it is not stated that he has been converted into Labbais group of Muslims. It merely says petitioner has embraced Islam.
"This certificate declaring the petitioner's conversion only states that the petitioner has become a Muslim and nothing more. G.Michael judgment of the Madras High Court also states that when a Hindu gets converted to Islam, he becomes just a Mussalman and his place in Muslim society is not determined by the caste to which he belonged before his conversion. When the Kazi does not declare that the convertee is to be treated as belonging to the group of Labbais, I fail to understand as to how a revenue authority of a secular government can fix the converted individual in a particular slot or pigeon-hole", the Court observed.
Case Title: U Akbar Ali v The State of Tamil Nadu and another
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Mad) 492
Case No: WP (MD)No.1019 of 2022