Apex court to examine quota for Dalit Christians, Muslims


New Delhi : Is denial of the Scheduled Castes reservations to Dalit Christians and Muslims – as available to Hindus, Sikh, and Buddhists – violative of Article 14 of the constitution? The Supreme Court Friday said it will hold a hearing on the question.

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The apex court bench of Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia, Justice K.S. Panicker Radhakrishnan and Justice Swatanter Kumar said the issue involved a very important question about the Constitution – whether the Scheduled Castes order of 1950 that gave reservation to Dalits belonging to Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist communities could exclude Dalit Christians and Muslims.

Thus the court would now look into the validity of the scheduled castes order, which initially provided for scheduled castes reservation for Hindu Dalits only but it was subsequently amended twice – in 1970 and 1995 – to include Dalits amongst Sikhs and Buddhists under the order.

The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order 1950 lists 1,108 castes across 25 states in its First Schedule. The Constitution lays down general principles for the policy of affirmative action for the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes (SC/STs).

The court appointed senior counsel T.R. Andhyarujina as amicus curiae to assist the court and fixed the next hearing on Feb 24.

Senior counsel Prashant Bhushan said that initially the order providing for reservation to Dalits in government jobs and educational institution was limited to Hindu Dalits only. However, it was amended twice to include Sikh and Buddhists Dalits.

Noting that Dalits belonging to other religious denomination were kept out of it on the ground that Christians and Muslims did not practise caste differentiation, Bhushan said there was sufficient evidence to prove that Dalits who embraced Christianity and Islam, could not free themselves of their Dalit tag.

He said that Dalits could not escape social discrimination even after changing their religion and thus they too deserve benefits of reservation.