New Delhi: The Centre has defended the exclusion of Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims from the list of scheduled castes, saying historical data shows no backwardness or oppression was ever faced by them.
Contending that Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims cannot claim benefits which scheduled castes are entitled to, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment in an affidavit in the Supreme Court said the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order of 1950 does not suffer from any unconstitutionality.
The affidavit was filed in response to a plea of NGO Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) seeking extension of reservation and other benefits to people from Dalit communities who converted to Islam and Christianity.
The ministry also submitted that the identification of scheduled castes is centred around a specific social stigma that is limited to the communities identified in the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950.
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The Constitution (Scheduled Caste) Order, 1950, “does not suffer from any unconstitutionality inasmuch as the exclusion of Christianity or Islam was due to the reason that the oppressive system of untouchability that leads to economic and social backwardness of some Hindu castes was not prevalent in Christian or Islamic societies”, the affidavit said
The Order “was based on historical data which clearly established that no such backwardness or oppression was ever faced by members of Christian or Islamic society”, it said.
“In fact, one of the reasons for which people from scheduled castes have been converting to religions like Islam or Christianity is so that they can come out of the oppressive system of untouchability which is not prevalent at all in Christianity or Islam,” the affidavit said
The ministry also refused to agree with the report of the Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission that recommended inclusion of Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims in the scheduled castes list, and said it took a myopic view.