The Centre told the Supreme Court that the status of Scehduled Caste cannot be granted to Dalits who converted to Christianity and Islam as they have not suffered the oppressive system of untochability, which is not prevelant in Islam and Christianity.
The identification of SC status is centred around a specific social stigma and the connected backwardness which is limited to the communities recognised under the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950, it said.
“The Constitution (Scheduled Caste) Order, 1950 was based on historical data which clearly established that no such backwardness or oppression was ever faced by members of Christian or Islamic Society. 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 government said.
The Centre filed an affidavit on Wednesday opposing the plea seeking the inclusion of Scheduled Caste converts to Christianity in the list of Scheduled Castes. The petition has argued that the exclusion of Christian and Muslim Dalits from the list of Scheduled Castes, when Dalits of the Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist faith are being categorised as SCs, was discriminatory.
The Centre further said that untouchability laws already exist, applicable to all irrespective of religion and the benefits accorded to SC-converts are in tandem with that of OBC.
Opposing the argument of discrimination faced by converts, the Centre said that the State has carved out policies to uplift the underprivileged and economically weak.
In its response, the Centre said, "The Centre claimed that it would cause a grave injustice and would be an abuse of the process of law, consequently affecting the rights of the SC groups if all the converts are arbitrarily given the perks of reservation without examining the aspect of social disability.
Justifying the extension of the same to Buddhism, the Centre said, "The Scheduled Castes embraced Buddhism voluntarily at the call of Dr B R Ambedkar in 1956 on account of some innate socio-political imperatives. The original castes/ community of such converts can clearly be determined. This cannot be said in respect of Christians and Muslims, who might have converted on account of other factors, since the process of such conversions has taken place over the centuries."