The criterion for SC status

Source– The post is based on the article “The criterion for SC status” published in The Hindu on 6th October 2022.

Syllabus: GS2- Vulnerable sections and Indian Judiciary. GS1- Social empowerment

Relevance– Caste system in India

News- The article explains the issues related to inclusion of Christian Dalits in category of Schedule Caste under Article 341 of Indian constitution.

The Supreme Court of India has sought the most recent position of the Union government on a batch of petitions challenging the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order of 1950. It allows only members of Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist religions to be recognised as SCs.

Who all are included in the Constitution Order of 1950?

In 1950, initially it included only Hindus as SCs.

The Order was amended in 1956 to include Dalits who had converted to Sikhism.

It was amended once more in 1990 to include Dalits who had converted to Buddhism.

Both amendments were aided by the reports of the Kaka Kalelkar Commission in 1955 and the High Powered Panel (HPP) on Minorities, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in 1983 respectively.

Why are Dalit Christians excluded?

First, SC status is meant for communities suffering from social disabilities arising out of the practice of untouchability. It was prevalent in Hindu and Sikh communities.

Second, Christians and Muslims of Dalit origin had lost their caste identity by way of their conversion. The practice of untouchability is not prevalent in these religions.

Third, Dalits who converted to Islam or Christianity belonged to different sets of caste groups and not just one. They cannot be categorised as a “single ethnic group”, which is required by Article 341 for inclusion.

Fourth, Practice of untouchability was a feature of Hindu religion. Inclusion of Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians as SCs could result in being misunderstood internationally as India trying to impose its caste system  upon Christians and Muslims.

What are the arguments for for inclusion oc Christians and Muslims?

First Backward Classes Commission’s report in 1953, the Report of the Committee on Untouchability Economic and Educational Development Of the Scheduled Castes in 1969, the HPP report on SCs, STs, and Minorities in 1983, the Mandal Commission Report, the report of the Prime Minister’s High-Level Committee formed in 2006, a 2008 study conducted by the National Commission for Minorities, the Ranganath Misra Commission Report  have documented the existence of caste inequalities among Christian and Muslim dalits.

The Union government refuses to accept the reports of the Commissions on the basis that these reports do not have enough empirical evidence to support their claims.

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