SC to examine quota benefit to Dalit converted to other faith

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday decided to examine the issue of extending reservation to Dalit Christians and Muslims under the category of Scheduled Castes, six years after the issue was brought up before it.

The Court sought the views of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) and the National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities (NCRLM) saying important constitutional issues arise from a bunch of petitions on the issue.

A Bench of Chief Justice S H Kapadia and Justices K S Radhakrishan and Swatanter Kumar also appointed senior advocate T R Andhyrujina as amicus curaie to assist the court in the matter in which the petitions have been filed both in favour and against extending the benefit of reservation to Dalits who have converted from Hinduism to other faiths.

The Bench said some questions needs to be examined on the issue in the context of the President`s Order of 1950 which identified the castes to be brought under reservation policy and posted the matter for hearing on February 24.

It said the first question that is required to be examined is whether the "Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order," 1950", which says that no person other than those who profess the religion of Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism will considered as Scheduled Castes is void and in violation of Article 14, 15, 19 and 25 of the Constitution.

The second question is whether a Scheduled Caste person belonging to religious faith other than Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism are entitled to the benefit of reservation.

The third question that has to be answered is whether exclusion of other religions from "Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order," 1950" is valid or not.

The "Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order," 1950" lists 1,108 castes across 25 states in its first schedule which are benefited by reservation policy.

During the last hearing, the Bench had termed the issue as "sensitive" and "important" and had said it might refer the matter for examination by a larger bench, if required.

It had said it would also examine the meaning of `caste` in terms of Articles 16(4) and 15(4) of the Constitution which deal with reservation in state jobs and empowerment of socially and educationally backward classes and ensure that none of the interested groups is left out from being heard.

The bench had said it would bring the issue in public domain by putting it on the apex court`s website.