HomeIndia NewsReservation on change of religion? crooked case

Reservation on change of religion? crooked case

Virag Gupta
RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s statement against the caste system, the resignation of Delhi minister Rajendra Gautam after the controversy over the initiation of Buddhism, and the formation of a commission for reservation of converting Dalits amidst the intensifying campaign of caste census in Bihar. Confusion is increasing. Article 14 of the Constitution prohibits equality of all and Article 15 prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion, varna, caste, sex, place of birth etc. But socially and educationally backward or Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes can get reservation under Articles 15(4) and 16(4).

After panchayat, municipal, assembly, Lok Sabha, educational institutions and government jobs, now the demand for reservation in the judiciary, private sector has started expanding. While the matter is pending in the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court on 10 percent reservation for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS), governments have started taking decisions for women’s reservation as well. At the same time, the initiative of states like Karnataka to end the restriction of 50 percent in the upper limit of reservation may increase the controversy. Let us understand what has happened so far regarding reservation:

  • The issue of reservation for Dalits after conversion was heated up after Aryan Khan’s arrest. Nawab Malik had alleged that Samir Wankhede, despite converting to Muslim religion, got a job by taking advantage of Dalit reservation.
  • A caste is included in the Scheduled Castes (SC) by order of the President. The caste system and untouchability are considered to be evils of Hinduism. According to the Constitution (SC) Order 1950, only Dalits of Hindu religion get the benefit of reservation.
  • After the report of the First Backward Classes Commission (Kelkar Committee) in 1956, Sikhs and people of Buddhism in 1990 were included in the purview of SC. Since then, there has been a demand to bring the converts of Muslim and Christian religion under the purview of Dalit reservation.
  • According to the advocates of reservation, the backwardness of Dalits did not end despite the change of religion, so discrimination on the basis of religion is unconstitutional, while according to the opponents, there is no caste system in Muslim and Christian religion, so it is not right to bring them under the purview of SC.
  • Since 2004, many cases are going on in the Supreme Court in this regard. In May 2007, the National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities, headed by former Chief Justice Ranganath Mishra, recommended reservation on the basis of social backwardness rather than religion. A member of the commission had opposed bringing people of Muslim and Christian religions under the purview of Dalit reservation.
  • In November 2019, the central government had given an affidavit in the Supreme Court that there was a need for a new study, instead of the reports of the old commissions, regarding the reservation of converted Dalits.
  • The Supreme Court had again sought a response from the government in August 2022. After that, on October 6, under Section 3 of the Commission of Inquiry Act, 1952, the government issued a notification for the formation of a three-member commission.
  • The commission is headed by former Supreme Court Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan. Former IAS Ravindra Kumar Jain and UGC member Prof. Sushma Yadav is its other two members.
  • The commission will study how the Dalits who have been facing inequality and discrimination can get the benefits of Scheduled Castes under Article 341 of the Constitution after converting to other religions? The commission will also examine what changes took place in the economic and social status of the converted Dalit in customs, tradition and social status after conversion.
  • According to reservation supporters, the decision will be delayed due to the commission’s report coming after the next general election. According to him, no commission was constituted under the Commission of Inquiry before the people of Buddhist and Sikh religion were brought under the purview of Dalit reservation.

constitutional difficulties
Due to this restriction in the maximum limit of reservation, many legal disputes are going on in the courts. Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists have been included in Hinduism in Article 25 of the Constitution. There is a large number of Scheduled Castes in Buddhism and Sikhism, and they are getting the benefit of reservation. Due to the negligible number of SCs within Jainism, there is no such demand from their side. This controversy of reservation for the converted SCs may start a new debate on the definition and benefits of minorities. India has different civil laws on the basis of religion. There are personal laws for the Muslim religion and there is no consensus on a uniform civil code, then how can it be considered wrong to exclude people of Muslim and Christian religion from the purview of reservation on the basis of caste?

People taking oath of conversion at a program held at Ambedkar Bhawan in Delhi

encourage conversion?
Despite the restriction of 50 per cent, the marginalized sections are not getting the desired benefits due to the inclusion of new people in the purview of reservation. Inter-caste disputes can increase if the Dalit people of Hindu religion are harmed by getting the benefit of reservation in Muslim and Christian religions. Meanwhile, many states are making laws against conversion. If permission is given to get the benefit of reservation after conversion, then religious conversion can be encouraged. Religion is a matter of personal belief, but there is no clarity in the law on this. Despite the change of religion, people do not change their name and keep taking advantage of reservation. There is also no clear legal provision to stop such cases. After the commission’s report, many such legal anomalies will be debated afresh in the government, parliament and the Supreme Court.

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are those of the author.

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