A person can change religion, but not caste, rules Supreme Court

May 3, 2016 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

supreme court of indiaPunjab, April 30, 2016: In a significant decision, the Supreme Court has ruled that a person can change religion and faith but not the caste to which they belong.

The Supreme Court has said that caste has linkage to birth and person changing religion can’t change his caste.

The Judgment came in the case of Mohammed Sadique, who had contested election from a constituency reserved for Scheduled Castes in Punjab.

While dismissing the election petition which was allowed by the High Court, the Supreme Court bench comprising of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Prafulla C. Pant has reiterated that a person can change his religion but not his caste.

In this case, Sadique claimed to be a member of ‘Doom’ community, also one of the Scheduled Caste in Punjab. After he declared that he has embraced Sikhism, and he was accepted by the Sikh community. It is on the basis of this Caste certificate; the returning officer had approved his candidature also. He won the election and it was challenged before the High Court of Punjab and Haryana.

The High Court had held that the conversion from one religion to another would disentitle the person to carry his caste with him after conversion.

In that context, the Apex Court has made reference to the dictum laid in Kailash Sonkar vs Maya Devi wherein a lady born to Christian parents, reconverted to Hinduism and was welcomed by caste leaders. The court had held that it fulfills the conditions required for being reconverted to Hinduism from Christianity in order to revive the original caste.

“Admittedly the appellant was born to Muslim parents. However, he has proved that although his family members follow Islam, they belonged to “Doom” community. It is settled law that a person can change his religion and faith but not the caste to which he belongs, as caste has linkage to birth. It is proved on the record that the appellant was issued a caste certificate as he was found to be member of ‘Doom’ community by the competent authority, after he declared that he has embraced Sikhism, and he was accepted by the Sikh community,” observed the Supreme Court bench.

“It is not disputed that ‘Doom’ in Punjab is a Scheduled Caste under Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950. The Scheduled Caste Certificate No. 6149 dated 25.08.2006 (Exh PG/2) was issued to the appellant by the competent authority, and accepted by the returning officer. Said certificate appears to have not been cancelled,” the bench added.

“Change one’s name after embracing a different faith. However, such change in name of can be a corroborating fact regarding conversion or reconversion into a religion/faith in appropriate cases. Also it is not necessary in law that entire family of a person should convert or reconvert to the religion to which he has gone,” the bench further observed.

– tcn

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