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Dalit Christians seek quota, apex court admits plea

Thursday, January 07, 2010 12:16:00 PM, IANS

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court Wednesday admitted yet another plea for according a Scheduled Caste status to Dalits embracing Christianity, entitling them to quota in state jobs and educational institutions.


Admitting the lawsuit of the All India Christian Federation, a bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justice B.S. Chauhan issued notices to the union and the Andhra Pradesh governments, besides various other government agencies, including the National Commission for the Schedule Castes.


The bench admitted the fresh plea with the old demand, thouh at least two similar lawsuits are pending with it.


Over two and a half years ago on July 19, 2007, the chief justice's bench had asked the central government to firm up within two months its view on according the Scheduled Caste status to Dalit Christians.


The bench, then headed by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and having Justice R.V. Raveendran and Justice Dalveer Bhandari on it, had also sought from then additional solicitor general Gopal Subramanium, now the country's solicitor general, "all information, data and details" within eight weeks to help it arrive at a decision.


The bench in July 2007 had issued these directions while hearing two lawsuits filed in 2004 by the Centre for Public Interest Litigation and advocate D. David of Vellore in Tamil Nadu.


The chief justice's bench this time simply tagged the new petition for hearing with the old ones.


Like the earlier petitions, the new one too has challenged the legality of para 3 of the Constitution Scheduled Castes Order, 1950, which provides the 'untouchable Hindus' the Schedulec Caste status for benefit of affirmative actions like reservations.


But the earlier untouchables among Hindus on conversion to Christianity or Islam lose the benefit of reservation, the lawsuit rued.


The lawsuit contended that the order had been amended earlier to include even the Dalit Sikhs and Buddhists in the Scheduled Castes list.


Arguing for provision of similar treatment to Dalit Christians as well, the lawsuit argued that the state cannot deny affirmative action to citizens on the basis of religion.


The lawsuit pointed out to the court that the issue of according Scheduled Caste status had been examined by the National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities, headed by the Supreme Court's former chief justice Rangnath Mishra.


Mishra, in turn, had submitted his report to Prime Minister Maanmohan Singh May 14, 2007, recommending that Dalit Christians could be accorded Schedules Caste status.


The prime minister had referred the matter for closer examination by the National Commission for the Schedule Castes.


The new petition, as the old ones, mentioned all these old facts and made old arguments and eventually got tagged with them, adding to the list of 53,000-odd cases piling up in the apex court.













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