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Apex court for Centre's view for SC status to dalit Christians
July 19, 2007 18:14 IST
A bench headed by Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan asked the Centre to respond within two months after it was informed that the Committee entrusted to look into the matter has submitted its report to the government which was awaiting the comments of National Commission for Scheduled Castes.
Additional Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam said the National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities headed by former Chief Justice of India Rangnath Misra in its report has found substance on the points raised for granting Scheduled Castes status to the Dalits who have converted to Christianity.
The PIL filed by an NGO, Centre for Public Interest Litigation, has said reservation was available to dalits while being followers of Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism and there was no reason to deprive Dalit Christians of the benefit.
The Centre's stand that it will give its opinion only after receiving the expert comments from NCSC was opposed by senior advocate Shanti Bhushan, who, appearing for CPIL, said, "There was no need for any other view."
The CPIL said its contention that paragraph three of the President's "Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order," 1950 was coming in the way of granting SC status to Dalit Christians was upheld the by NCRLM's seven-member committee.
Bhushan said that it was the right time that the court should strike down the order requiring all dalits to belong to a particular religion if they were to avail the SC reservation benefits as it goes beyond the mandate of Article 341(1) and violates the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution.
However, the bench, also comprising Justices R V Raveendran and Dlaveer Bhandari, said "it was for the government to take a decision."
"Castes system has to be examined in detail and data have to be collected," the bench observed and said it was not concerned with the Misra Committee report.
"We will ask Government to take decision," it said adding, "Now the report is there it makes the work of everyone easier".
Senior advocate Ram Jethmalani, appearing for All India United Christians Movement for Equal Rights, said the Congress Government in 1996 had brought a Bill in Lok Sabha to amend para three of the "Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order 1950" for extending reservation benefits to the dalit Christians.
"The government of today which was in power in 1996 has to be morally committed on the issue," he said.
Earlier, Bhushan said a person couldn't be extended the benefit of reservation only if he professes a particular religion. He claimed that social standings of dalits even after converting to Christianity has not changed and they have to face discrimination in the churches also.