New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday held that a person can be accorded Scheduled Caste (SC) status on his re-conversion to Hinduism if he is accepted by fellow caste men and proves that either he or his forefathers previously belonged to that caste before embracing another religion.
"In our considered opinion, three things that need to be established by a person who claims to be a beneficiary of the caste certificate are (i) there must be absolutely clear-cut proof that he belongs to the caste that has been recognised by the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950;
"(ii) there has been reconversion to the original religion to which the parents and earlier generations had belonged; and (iii) there has to be evidence establishing the acceptance by the community. Each aspect, according to us, is very significant and if one is not substantiated, the recognition would not be possible," a bench of justices Dipak Misra and V Gopala Gowda said.
The court's judgement came on a plea of K P Manu, a Kerala resident, who had challenged the Kerala High Court verdict.
Manu, who was born as a Christian as his grandfather had embraced the religion after leaving Hinduism, became Hindu again at the age of 24 and was granted SC certificate of 'Hindu Pulaya' caste to which his ancestors belonged.
However, later on a complaint, a scrutiny committee held that he cannot be treated as a Hindu on the ground that his forefathers were Christians and he himself had married a Christian woman. This finding was affirmed by the HC as well.
On the basis of the report of the scrutiny committee, the state government took action and directed the employer of Manu to remove him from service and recover a sum of Rs 15 lakh towards the salary paid to him.
However, the apex court set aside the HC verdict.
The apex court, in its verdict, said, "in the instant case, the appellant got married to a Christian lady and that has been held against him. It has also been opined that he could not produce any evidence to show that he has been accepted by the community for leading the life of a Hindu.
"As far as the marriage and leading of Hindu life are concerned, we are of the convinced opinion that, in the instant case, it really cannot be allowed to make any difference. The community which is a recognised organisation by the state government, has granted the certificate in categorical terms in favour of the appellant. It is the community which has the final say as far as acceptance is concerned, for it accepts the person, on reconversion, and takes him within its fold."
The bench further said "therefore, we are inclined to hold that the appellant after reconversion had come within the fold of the community and thereby became a member of the Scheduled Caste. Had the community expelled him, the matter would have been different. The acceptance is in continuum. Ergo, the reasonings ascribed by the scrutiny committee which have been concurred with by the High Court are wholly unsustainable."
Allowing the appeal of Manu, it said the HC's judgment, findings of the scrutiny committee and the orders passed by the state government are set aside.
"The appellant shall be reinstated in service forthwith with all the benefits relating to seniority and his caste and shall also be paid back wages upto 75 per cent within eight weeks from today," it said.