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SC Issues Notice On Plea For Extending Scheduled Caste Status To Dalit Christians [Read Petition]

Prabhati Nayak Mishra
8 Jan 2020 10:57 AM GMT
SC Issues Notice On Plea For Extending Scheduled Caste Status To Dalit Christians [Read Petition]
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The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued notice on a petition filed by National Council of Dalit Christians(NCDC) seeking a direction to grant Scheduled Castes (SC) status to Dalit Christians. Issuing notice to Centre, a bench comprising Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde, Justices BR Gavai and Surya Kant tagged the plea with other similar petitions pending before this...

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued notice on a petition filed by National Council of Dalit Christians(NCDC) seeking a direction to grant Scheduled Castes (SC) status to Dalit Christians.

Issuing notice to Centre, a bench comprising Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde, Justices BR Gavai and Surya Kant tagged the plea with other similar petitions pending before this court.

Advocate Franklin Caesar Thomas with Advocate Gowthaman appeared for NCDC which, according to the petition, has been fighting for the Constitutional rights of Dalit Christians in the country.

"Change of religion can't change the social status of a person," the counsel stated. It was also submitted that notions of caste hierarchy were present within Christianity, and persons of SC origins were kept socially and economically backward. Nearly 16 million Christians of SC-origin were suffering due to this, the counsel said.

The plea seeks to declare Paragraph (3) of the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order,1950 issued in exercise of Article 341 (1) of the Constitution of India to be unconstitutional.

This paragraph says that "Notwithstanding anything contained in paragraph 2, no person who professes a religion different from Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism shall be deemed to be a member of a Scheduled Caste" 

According to the petitioner, restricting the SC status only to persons following Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism is violative of Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution. It is pointed out in the petition that Dalit-origin persons following Sikhism and Buddhism were granted Scheduled Caste status only in 1956 and 1990 respectively, by amendments brought to the Presidential Order. If backwardness in these religions can be recognized under the Presidential Order, omitting Christians from its coverage is arbitrary and discriminatory, the plea states.

The non-inclusion of "Christians"in paragraph(3) of the Constitution(Scheduled Castes)Order,1950, along with Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism, is discriminatory and violative of Articles 14,15,16 and 25 of the Constitution of India, it is argued.

Arguing that majority of India has a casteist mindset regardless of religion, the petitioner seeks to de-link religion for the consideration of Scheduled Castes status and make Scheduled Caste religion neutral.

Another prayer is sought to allow and extend the Scheduled Castes status to Christians of Scheduled Castes Origin for availing the Indian constitutional provisions under Articles 16, 46, 330, 332, 335, 338,341,366-24 and for availing the legal remedy/protection under Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention) of Atrocities Act,1989.

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