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Centre sets up commission to examine granting SC status to converted Dalits

7/10/2022 at 10:38 PM

New Delhi, Oct 7 (IANS): The Central government has appointed a Commission of Inquiry under the chairmanship of former Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan to examine claims to grant Scheduled Caste status to the Dalits who converted to other religions.

The commission, headed by justice Balakrishnan, also comprises retired IAS officer Dr Ravinder Kumar Jain and Prof Sushma Yadav (member, UGC), as members.

The commission will examine the matter of according Scheduled Caste (SC) status to new persons, who claim to historically have belonged to the Scheduled Castes, but have converted to religion other than those mentioned in the presidential orders issued from time to time under article 341 of the Constitution.

The presidential orders granted SC status to only those who followed Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sikhism.

The commission will examine the implications on the existing Scheduled Castes, of adding such new persons as part of the existing list of Scheduled Castes.

The commission will also examine the changes Scheduled Caste persons go through on converting to other religions in terms of their customs, traditions, social, and other status discrimination and deprivation, and the implication of the same on the question of giving them Scheduled Caste status.

The notification was issued by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment on Thursday.

The Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry, justifying its decision to set up the commission, said: “Given its importance, sensitivity and potential impact, any change in definition in this regard should be on the basis of a detailed and definitive study and extensive consultation with all stakeholders and no Commission under the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952 (60 of 1952) has so far inquired into the matter.”

The government noted certain groups have raised the question of revisiting the existing definition of Scheduled Castes by according the status to new persons who belong to other religions beyond those permitted through presidential orders, and in contrast, many other groups have also opposed the same.

Certain representatives of the existing Scheduled Castes have objected to such granting of Scheduled Caste status to new persons, and this is a seminal and historically complex sociological and constitutional question, and a definite matter of public importance, said the government.

The government has granted liberty to the commission to examine any other related questions that it deems appropriate, in consultation with and with the consent of the central government. The headquarters of the commission will be in the capital and it will submit its report within a period of two years.

“Certain groups of persons who have historically suffered social inequality, discrimination and the consequent backwardness resulting there from, have been declared to be Scheduled Castes by Presidential Orders issued from time to time under Article 341 of the Constitution,” noted the government.

In August this year, the top court, acting on an PIL filed by the National Council of Dalit Christians for grant of SC status to Dalit converts, asked the Centre to clarify its stand in the matter.

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