Marriage with a Christian man won’t deprive a SC woman from availing reservation: HC
Mere marriage with a person belonging to forward caste or with person belonging to different faith like Christianity, will not deprive a lady belonging to scheduled caste from claiming caste validity and subsequent benefits, ruled Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court. However, if the person has officially converted to other faith, then he or she may not claim the benefit of belonging to scheduled caste.
In fact, this had been bone of contention since last several decades and Government had opposed grant of such concession fearing that it would encourage large scale conversion.
However, the High Court, instead of relying on overt signs like wearing of cross, having photograph of Lord Jesus or attending Church, sought concrete proof of conversion to other faith from the vigilance cell while quashing the order of Caste Scrutiny Committee which refused to validate caste claim of one Kiranlata Sontakke on the ground of her being Christian. A division bench consisting of Justice Ravi Deshpande and Justice Vinay Joshi while allowing the petition filed by Sontakke, directed the Caste Scrutiny Committee to issue her a caste certificate belonging to “Mahar” caste based on pre-constitutional documents of her grand-father. There is no material to show that the community has treated petitioner as Christian or she has undergone the ceremony of baptism, the High Court ruled while levying a clinching test for extending the benefit of reservation in such cases.
The petitioner who claimed to be belonging to “Mahar” caste, which is included in Scheduled Caste Category, is working as Staff Nurse since April 1995. The caste certificate issued by Executive Magistrate on October 23, 1990 was referred to the Scrutiny Committee for scrutiny and verification. After obtaining Vigilance Cell report, the Committee observed that the petitioner is keeping faith and following traits and customs of Christian community and invalidated her caste claim on November 13, 2014. Even her school certificate mentioned her caste as Christian, she married a Christian and regularly attends Church.
According to petitioner Sontakke, she belonged to Mahar caste and had never converted to Christianity by undergoing Baptism. Her mother being a maid servant in Christian family, she entered her caste as Christian in the school record under the influence of said Christian family, the petitioner claimed. By virtue of marriage she never lost her original caste Mahar, she claimed while challenging caste scrutiny panel’s order.
The High Court found that pre-constitutional documents and kotwal record in 1943 clearly mentioned caste of her grand-father Nago as Mahar and Committee overlooked these documents and relied only on vigilance cell report and influenced by the sole ground that, the petitioner married with Christian and was attending Church. There is no evidence that the petitioner embraced Christianity by undergoing Baptism ceremony. “Merely because husband of petitioner belongs to Christian community, that by itself is not sufficient to infer that she has abandoned Hindu faith and converted to Christianity,” the High Court ruled. The High Court also found several shortcomings in report of vigilance panel, non-recording of statements of near relatives and parents and over-reliance on statement made by just one neighbour. Adv N B Kalwaghe appeared for the petitioner while Addl GP Anand Gajbhiye represented the state.
Courtesy : The Hitavada