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Scheduled Caste Status For Converted Dalits : Centre Constitutes Commission To Examine The Issue

Padmakshi Sharma
7 Oct 2022 9:01 AM GMT
Scheduled Caste Status For Converted Dalits : Centre Constitutes Commission To Examine The Issue
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Through a notification dated 6th October 2022, the Centre has appointed a Commission headed by former Chief Justice of India KG Balakrishnan to examine the matter of according Scheduled Caste status to new persons who claim to have historically belonged to the Scheduled Castes, but have converted to a religion other than those mentioned in the Presidential Orders under Article 341 of the Indian Constitution.

According to the Presidential Orders, SC status is available only to persons following Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism.

The notification has highlighted that while certain groups have raised the queries of revisiting the existing definitions of Scheduled Caste and petitioned for new persons who belong to other religions beyond those permitted through presidential orders, to be added in the definitions, many other groups have opposed the same. It states that certain representatives of the existing Scheduled Caste have objected to such a granting of Scheduled Caste status to new persons on account of its negative impact on the members of the existing Scheduled Castes.

While terming the issue as a "seminal and historically complex sociological and constitutional question", the notification has deemed it to be a matter of public importance. The notification states–

"Given its importance, sensitivity and potential impact, any change in definition in this regard should be on the basis of detailed and definitive study and extensive consultation with all stakeholders and no commission under the Commission of Enquiry Act, 1952 has so far enquired into the matter."

Accordingly, a commission to look into the question has been appointed. The chairperson of the Commission is to be former CJI, (Retd.) Justice K.G. Balakrishnan. The commission also consists of two members– Dr. Ravindra Kumar Jain, retired IAS officer and Prof. Dr. Sushma Yadav, Member, UGC.

The commission is also to examine the implications of adding new persons to Scheduled Castes on the existing Scheduled Caste members. Additionally, it is to examine the changes Scheduled Caste persons go through on converting to other religions in terms of their customs, traditions, social and other status discrimination and deprivation, and the implication of the same on the question of giving them Scheduled Caste status.

The headquarters of the commission shall be at New Delhi and it is to submit its report within a period of two years.

A PIL filed by National Council of Dalit Christians(NCDC) seeking a direction to grant Scheduled Castes (SC) status to Dalit Christians is currently pending before the Supreme Court of India. The said PIL had referred to a 2007 report submitted by National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities, under the chairpersonship of retired CJI Ranganath Misra, which had found merit for granting Scheduled Caste status to Dalit Christians. On 31st August, 2022, the Supreme Court had asked the Centre to provide its current stand on the issue.


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