Christian of Dalit origin will be Dalit if he embraces Hinduism: SC

New Delhi: The Supreme Court Thursday said that a Dalit whose parents or grandparents embraced Christianity will get the benefits of reservation meant for Scheduled Caste if he converts to Hinduism.

"... we are inclined to hold that the appellant (K.P. Manu) after reconversion had come within the fold of the community and thereby became a member of the Scheduled Caste," a bench of Justice Dipak Mishra and
Justice V. Gopala Gowda said.

"Had the community expelled him, the matter would have been different. The acceptance is in continuum," the bench said. "It is the community which has the final say as far as acceptance is concerned, for it accepts the person, on reconversion, and takes him within its fold," the court said.

"If a person who is born to Christian parents who had converted to Christianity from the Scheduled Caste Hindu (group) can avail the benefits of the caste certificate.. there cannot be any soundness of logic that he  cannot avail the benefit because his grandparents were converted and he was born to parents who were Christians," said Justice Mishra.

The court said this while setting aside as unsustainable the decision of the Scrutiny Committee for Verification of Community Certificate. The Kerala High Court upheld it March 10, 2006. The Scrutiny Committee had Feb 4, 2006 held that Manu was erroneously issued a caste certificate in as much as he was not of Hindu origin and hence could not have been conferred the benefit of the caste status. The court said that a person claiming to be a beneficiary of the caste certificate upon reconversion to Hinduism must establish three things:

"There must be clear proof that he belongs to the caste that has been recognised by the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950; there has been reconversion to the original religion to which the parents and earlier generations belonged; and there has to be evidence establishing the acceptance by the community.

"Each aspect according to us is very significant, and if one is not substantiated, the recognition would not be possible." Manu's great grandfather belonged to Hindu Pulaya Community. His son (Manua's grandfather) Chothi embraced Christianity and became a Varghese.

He married Mariam, originally from Hindu Ezhava community who too converted to Christianity. Varghese and Mariam had three children: Varghese, Yohannan and Paulose. Manu's father, Paulose, married Kunjamma, also a Christian.

Manu was born Jan 3, 1960. Sometime in 1984 at age 24 he converted to Hindu religion and changed his name to K.P. Manu. After conversion, Manu applied for a caste certificate to the Akhila Bharata Ayyappa Seva Sangham. It was issued on Feb 5, 1984. Thereafter the tehsildar issued the necessary caste certificate.

A S. Sreekumar Menon moved the Scrutiny Committee for Verification of Community Certificate contending that Manu had obtained the caste certificate by distorting facts. The Scrutiny Committee directed the removal of Manu from service and recovery of Rs.15 lakh paid to him by way of salary.

The Committee also noted that 10 years after Manu converted to Hinduism. he married a Christian. The apex court said: "As far as marriage is concerned, in our considered opinion, that should not have been considered the central and seminal facet to deny the benefit.

When the community has accepted and the  community, despite the marriage, has not ex-communicated or expelled (him), the same would not be a disqualification." The court directed that Manu be reinstated in service forthwith with all the benefits relating to seniority and his caste and he be paid back wages up to 75 percent within eight weeks from Thursday.

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