A person can be given SC/ST status even after his re-converson if there is evidence establishing the acceptance by the community : Supreme Court

A person can be given SC/ST status even after his re-converson if there is evidence establishing the acceptance by the community : Supreme Court

The Supreme Court of India while hearing a petition relating to the issue or reconversion and caste has held that a person continues to belong to a scheduled caste even after reconversion. Laying down the test to decide such cases, the two judge bench consisting of Justices Dipak Misra and V. Gopala Gowda, “In  our  considered  opinion,  three  things  that  need  to  be established  by  a  person  who  claims  to  be  a  beneficiary  of  the caste  certificate  are (i)  there  must be  absolutely  clear  cut  proof that  he  belongs  to  the  caste  that  has  been  recognised  by  the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950; (ii) there has been reconversion  to  the  original  religion  to  which  the  parents  and earlier  generations  had  belonged;  and  (iii)  there  has  to  be evidence  establishing  the  acceptance  by  the  community.   Each aspect  according  to  us  is  very  significant,  and  if  one  is  not substantiated, the recognition would not be possible.”

Hearing the appeal against the order passed by the Kerala High Court which had to decide on the issue as a person, Manu had converted to Hinduism and claimed to belong from a Scheduled caste. However, Manu’s grandfather had converted to Christianity and their grandson, Manu was a born Christian. However, upon his reconversion, “jurisdiction  of  the Scrutiny  Committee  under  Section  11(3)  of  Kerala  (Scheduled  Castes  and  Scheduled Tribes) Regulation of Issue of Community Certificates Act, 1996 was invoked, challenging the  grant  of  caste  certificate,  namely,  Hindu  Pulaya  to  the appellant  on  the  ground  that  the  said  certificate  had  been obtained  by  him  on  misrepresentation,  and  that  apart  the concerned  authority  had  issued  the  caste  certificate  in  total transgression of law.  The Committee conducted an enquiry andeventually by its order dated 4th February, 2006 had returned afinding  that  the  appellant  was  erroneously  issued  a  castecertificate  inasmuch  as  he  was  not  of  Hindu  origin  and  hence,could not have been conferred the benefit of the caste status.”

The judgment of the Supreme Court notes, “sometime in the year 1984 at the age of 24 convertedhimself to Hindu religion and changed his name to that of K.P.Manu.   On  the  basis  of  the  conversion  he  applied  for  a  castecertificate  to  Akhila  Bharata  Ayyappa  Seva  Sangham.   Be  itstated, the appellant after  conversion  had obtained a certificatefrom  the  concerned  community  on  5thFebruary,  1984.Eventually, the Tehsildar who was authorised to issue the caste certificate had issued the necessary caste certificate”

However, the Security Committee in its report held that benefit of caste status could not be given as the grandparents of the person were Christian and also the fact that the person had married a Christian lady. “On  the  basis  of  the  aforesaid  report  of  the  ScrutinyCommittee,  the  State  Government  took  action  and  directed  theemployer  of  the  Manu to  removehim from service and recover a sum of Rs.15 lakhs towards thesalary  paid  to  him.”

Before the Supreme Court, it was contented by Manu that the Security Committee was made to enquire certain aspects and it has correctly found out that he has produced the requisite certificate. However, the Committee has incorrectly decided that he should not be given the benefits of belonging to a SC. On the other hand, “Ms. Liz Mathew, learnedcounsel for the respondent-State submitted that the reasoning ofHigh  Court  cannot  be  faulted  inasmuch  as  the  ConstitutionBench  does  not  lay  down  that  a  person  born  as  a  Christianwhose  grandparents  had  embraced  Christianity  can,  onreconversion, come back to the stream of his/her original casteon  acceptance  by  the  community,  and  further  the  principlestated therein should not be stretched to cover that arena.”

Carving out the issues before it, the Supreme Court noted, “(1) whether on conversion and  at what stage a person born  to  Christian parents can,  after  reconversion  to  the Hindu  religion,  be  eligible  to  claim  the  benefit  of  his  original caste; (ii) whether after his eligibility is accepted and his original community on a collective basis takes him within its fold, he still can  be  denied  the  benefit;  and  (iii)  that  who  should  be  the authority to opine that he has been following the traditions and customs of a particular caste or not.”

Thereafter, the Court perused a number of authorities, including various cases laws and also articles authored by James Massey, B.R.  Ambedkar and inaugural address to the CatholicBishops Conference ofIndia, (CBCI) in the meeting held in Pune during December 1991 by Archbishop George Zur, Apostolic Pro-Nuncio to India. The Court also perused the Mandal Commission report while referring to the judgment pronounced in S.  Anbalagan,(1984) 2 SCC 112, said that in S.  Anbalagan it was laid down, “if the caste disappears, it disappears only to reappearon  reconversion  and  the  mark  of  caste  does  not  seem  to  reallydisappear even after some generations after conversion.”

The Court also observed, “One may raise a questionhow does one find out about the forefathers. There can be a falseclaim but that would be the subject matter of inquiry. Therefore,the principle of “definitive traceability” may be applied during theinquiry  and  the  onus  shall  be  on  the  person  who  claims  thebenefit  after  reconversion.   To  elaborate,  he  has  to  establish beyond  a  shadow  of  doubt  that  his  forefathers  belonged  to  the scheduled  caste  that  comes  within  the  Constitution  (Scheduled Castes)  Order,  1950  and  he  has  been  reconverted  and  his community has accepted him and taken him within its fold.”

The Court then went ahead and laid down the three tests, as mentioned before. Regarding the issue of marriage, the Court observed, “When the community has acceptedand  the  community,  despite  the  marriage,  has  notex-communicated  or  expelled,  the  same  would  not  be  adisqualification.”

Granting relief to Manu, the Court said, “we are inclined to hold that theappellant  after  reconversion  had  come  within  the  fold  of  thecommunity  and  thereby  became  a  member  of  the  scheduledcaste.  Had the community expelled him the matter would have been different. The acceptance is in continuum.   Ergo, thereasonings ascribed by the Scrutiny Committee which have been concurred with by the High Court are wholly unsustainable.”

Read the Judgment here.