New Delhi, January, 6 : Noting that the inclusion of Dalit Christians and Muslims in the SC category would have wide ramifications, the Supreme Court on Tuesday said it would tread with caution and might even refer the matter for examination by a larger bench.
A bench comprising of Chief Justice S H Kapadia and Justices K S Radhakrishnan and Swatanter Kumar contended that a close perusal was needed to assess if the recommendation on reservation for Dalit Christians falls within the constitutional framework.
The apex Court was to give its verdict on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed in the year 2004 which demands the deletion of para 3 of the Scheduled Caste Order 1950 which restricts the Scheduled Caste net to Hindus and later opened it to Sikhs and Buddhists, but still excluding from its purview the Muslims, Christians.
Appearing for the government, Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam told the bench that any decision for an amendment to the controversial 1950 Order must be left to the Parliament and could not be done through courts.
"In fact the solicitor general was asking an extension of more three months. But our advocate Prashant Bhushan argued that it was a political sensitive case and that can be the reason for the government to delay despite the strong recommendation from Justice Mishra Commission," said Franklin Caesar, a Dalit activist leading the legal battle for Christians.The National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities, headed by former Chief Justice of India Rangnath Mishra, favoured Scheduled Caste status for Dalits in all religions. The Commission recommended delinking of Scheduled Caste status from religion and abrogation of the 1950 Order.
Citing the recommendations of the Mishra report, Advocate Bushan pointed to the court that not including Christians and Muslims of Dalit origin in the SC net was discrimination on the basis of religion which is prohibited under the Constitution.
The next hearing on the case has been scheduled for January 14.