Religious conversion does not change caste, says Madras high court

Religious conversion does not change caste, says Madras high court


Conversion from one religion to another religion will not change the caste of a person which he belongs to, Madras high court has ruled, nixing a bid by a Dalit man, who embraced Christianity, to obtain an inter-caste marriage certificate to get priority in government jobs. Dalit-converts are treated as backward community (BC) members and not as SCs, as per law.

In Tamil Nadu , weddings involving a forward caste member with SC/ST, or a wedding between a BC member and an SC/ST are treated as inter-caste weddings entailing priority in government jobs.

Justice S M Subramaniam,  reiterating that merely because of conversion and his consequent categorisation as a BC member, a Dalit cannot claim his marriage to another Dalit as an inter-caste marriage, said: “The petitioner admittedly belongs to Christian Adi-Dravidar community and by virtue of conversion to Christianity he was issued with the Backward Class certificate.

However, by birth, the petitioner belongs to ‘Adi-Dravidar’ community and change of religion will not change the community. The classification of Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribes, Most Backward Classes, Backward Classes and Other castes will not change the caste.”

It was the case of S Paul Raj that he belonged to Christian Adi-Dravida possessing a Backward Class certificate. He married G Amutha, who belongs to Hindu Arunthathiyar community.

Post-marriage, Paul Raj claimed that it was an inter-caste marriage since he was now a BC member and not a Dalit. A BC member’s marriage with an SC member shall be treated as an inter-caste marriage, with all attendant benefits, he claimed. He relied on a December 2, 1976 government order which says:

“Where one of the spouses belongs to SC/ST, then inter-caste marriage certificate has to be issued in favour of the petitioner”.

He moved the high court after the Salem district officials rejected his contention, pointing out that he himself hailed from a Dalit community and that his conversion will not undo his caste status.

Upholding the finding, Justice Subramaniam said: “In the event of a converted person claiming inter-caste marriage certificate, it would pave way for the citizen to abuse the benefit granted under the inter-caste marriage quota. The repercussion will be large and, therefore, the inter-caste marriage certificate has to be issued only if any one of the spouses belongs to the Scheduled Caste and other spouse belongs to the other caste, but not otherwise.”
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