The Supreme Court on Wednesday (8 January) agreed to look into a plea seeking directions to the Centre to allocate benefits given to Scheduled Castes to Christians having a Scheduled Castes origin.
A bench, headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde and comprising Justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant, issued notice to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, the National Commission for Scheduled Castes, the National Commission for Minorities and the Registrar General of India and sought the Centre's response within two weeks, as it tagged the plea with other similar matters.
The plea also sought the Scheduled Castes community should be made religion neutral.
According to the plea, a Scheduled Caste person admitting a religion different from Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism should not be deprived from the benefit by Paragraph 3 of the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950, which restricts Christians of Scheduled Castes origin from availing the Scheduled Castes status. This restriction is against the fundamental right to equality, religious freedom and non-discrimination, it said.
The plea sought allowing and extending the Scheduled Castes status to Christians of Scheduled Castes Origin for availing special privilege in education, scholarships, employment, welfare measures, panchayat elections, legislative assemblies up to Indian Parliament and for availing the legal remedy/protection under Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention) of Atrocities Act, 1989 amended in the year 2018.
The court was hearing the plea filed by the National Council of Dalit Christians (NCDC) seeking Scheduled Caste status for Dalit Christians. "The non-inclusion of Christians in Paragraph (3)A of the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950, along with Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism, is discriminatory and violative of Articles 14, 15, 16 and 25 of the Constitution", said the plea.
The plea said social exclusion does not disappear with the change in and caste hierarchy continues to exist within Christianity, despite the religion forbidding it.
(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.)
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