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Can Christians and Muslims claim SC status when the Kerala High Court considers A Raja's election void?

The Kerala High Court ruled on Monday that CPI(M) lawmaker A Raja's election to the Devikulam Assembly constituency in the Idukki district was invalid because, as a baptised Christian, he was unable to run for a seat on the Scheduled Castes list (SC). 


The decision was made following a petition by Congress candidate D Kumar, who had lost to Raja in the election of 2021. Raja was a baptised Christian who, after changing his religion, was unable to be a member of the SC community, according to the plea. The judges and the legislature have looked into whether Dalits who are Christian and Muslims can also receive SC status over the years.


The Central Government argued that the Constitution (Scheduled Caste) Order, 1950, which was being challenged in the present case, was based on historical data that established that "no backwardness or oppression was ever experienced by members of Christian or Islamic Society" when the Apex Court considered this issue in "Centre for Public Interest Litigation and Another vs Union of India" in November 2022. According to the affidavit submitted by the Centre, Dalits move to Islam or Christianity in order to escape Hinduism's harsh untouchability system. Untouchability is not practised in either of the other two religions.


The National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities report contained a dissenting note that claimed Islam and Christianity are international religions that do not recognise the caste system, according to the Centre. According to the research, giving converts SC status would be equivalent to introducing the caste system in those religions.

Prior to this, on October 7, 2022, the Centre established a three-member committee under the direction of former CJI KG Balakrishnan to investigate the granting of SC status to individuals who claimed to historically be members of the scheduled castes but later converted to religions other than those listed in the Presidential Orders issued under Article 341 of the Constitution. The Commission is expected to deliver its findings in 2024, but the Apex Court has not yet provided a ruling on the issue of reservations for Muslim and Christian Dalits.


The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order was created in 1950 during the Constitution's drafting process. Article 341 of the Constitution states that the President may publicly notify and specify the castes, races, tribes, or parts of or groups within castes, races, or tribes, for the purposes of this Constitution, be regarded as Scheduled Castes.


Only Hindus were permitted to be categorised as SCs under the original ordinance, which was established in 1950. In response to political pressure, it was later modified to include Sikhs in 1956 and Buddhists in 1990. Despite these changes, no provisions were made to include within the concept of SCs the underprivileged populations that make up Christians and Muslims.


The UPA government of Dr. Manmohan Singh established the National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities in October 2004 to give recommendations for the welfare of the socially and economically disadvantaged segments of religious and linguistic minorities. Its chair is former CJI Justice Ranganath Misra.


The Ranganath Misra Commission delivered its report in May 2007, three years after it was established, and recommended that religion be completely disassociated from the designation of Scheduled Castes. The Commission suggested that reservations be issued without regard to religion and that such a classification be based on socioeconomic factors. Unfortunately, due to insufficient field data, Parliament rejected these proposals.


The Sachar Committee was established by the UPA administration in 2005 to look into the social and economic circumstances of Indian Muslims in order to clear up this uncertainty. The Committee released a report in 2006 that noted that even after conversion, the plight of Dalit Muslims had not improved. Muslims were ranked as being less advanced than SCs and STs in the survey. The mismatch between the ratio of Muslims in the public and in positions of power like the IAS and IPS was one of the numerous problems that were brought up

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