Religious conversion does not change caste, says Madras high court

What is the News?

The Madras High Court has ruled that an individual’s caste couldn’t change on account of their conversion from one religion to another.

What is the issue?

A person originally belonging to the Adi- Dravidar Community had married a person from the Hindu Arunthathiyar community, both of which are originally Scheduled Caste.

However, the person later converted to Christianity and was later given a ‘Backward Class’ Certificate (As per law, Dalit-converts are treated as backward community (BC) members and not as SCs). On the basis of the Backward class certificate, he applied for an inter-caste marriage certificate.

Note: In Tamil Nadu, a marriage between a member of the SC/ST community and someone from any other community or between a member of the BC community and someone from another community is considered an ‘inter-caste’ marriage. Such unions are eligible for several welfare benefits, including priority consideration for government jobs.

However, the Tamil Nadu Government refused to issue the inter-caste certificate as both husband and wife belonged to the SC community by birth.

After the refusal, the person filed a writ of mandamus petition in Madras High Court seeking the inter-caste marriage certificate be issued.

Note: The writ of mandamus is issued by a court to compel a public authority to perform legal duties it either has not performed or has refused to.

What did the court say?

The Madras High Court dismissed the writ petition and upheld the Tamil Nadu government refusal to issue an inter-caste marriage certificate to the petitioner. 

The court said that the very purpose and object of the issuance of an inter-caste marriage certificate is to provide certain welfare schemes.

But the inter-caste marriage certificate could be issued only if one of the spouses belongs to the Scheduled Caste and the other spouse belongs to the other caste, but not otherwise.

In this case, as both persons belong to the SC community and an individual’s caste couldn’t change on account of their conversion from one religion to another. Hence, the inter-caste certificate can’t be issued.

Source: This post is based on the article Religious conversion does not change caste, says Madras high courtpublished in TOI on 26th Nov 2021. 

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