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Religious Conversion Won't Change Person's Caste; Inter-Caste Marriage Certificate Can't Be Issued Merely On Account On Conversion : Madras High Court

Sebin James
25 Nov 2021 11:51 AM GMT
‘Religious Conversion Does Not Entitle A Person To Inter- Caste Marriage Certificate By Disregarding The Caste He Was Born Into’: Madras High Court

The Madras High Court has recently held that a person is not entitled to claim an 'inter-caste marriage' certificate on the pretext of his community certificate when he originally belonged to a certain caste but received a different community certificate on account of conversion to another religion. Justice S.M. Subramaniam observed that conversion does not alter the caste of a person and the said aspect cannot be suppressed to grant an inter-caste marriage certificate on the basis of his current community certificate.

"This Court is of the considered opinion that conversion from one religion to another religion will not change the caste of a person which he belongs... conversion from one religion to another religion, the caste of the person remains unchanged and therefore based on the conversion to other religion, inter-caste marriage certificate cannot be issued", the Court observed in the judgment.

In the case at hand, the petitioner originally belonged to Adi- Dravidar Community and married a person from Hindu Arunthathiyar community, both of which are originally Scheduled Castes. The petitioner was later given a 'Backward Class' Certificate on account of his subsequent conversion to Christianity.

"When, both the petitioner and his wife belongs to Scheduled Caste community by birth, merely because the petitioner by virtue of conversion changed the religion would not entail him to get the inter-caste marriage certificate", the court recorded in the order.

The petition was filed for the issuance of a writ of mandamus seeking directions to the authorities to issue an inter-caste' marriage certificate, citing that he was issued a community certificate for 'backward class' and his spouse belonged to the Scheduled Caste, making the petitioner eligible for such certificate to avail benefits including priority in public employments.

Justice S.M. Subramaniam while denying the plea of the petitioner, recorded his reasons:

"The very purpose and object of issuance of inter-caste marriage certificate is to provide certain welfare schemes and in such circumstances the classification of various castes as Backward Class, Scheduled Caste, Most Backward Class and other classes cannot be a ground to claim inter-caste marriage certificate."

To prevent the abuse of welfare schemes granted by virtue of inter-caste marriage certificate, it is pertinent to issue it only if 'one of the spouses belongs to the Scheduled Caste and other spouse belongs to the other caste, but not otherwise', added the court.

The petitioner counsel, Advocate P. Saravanan, referred to G.O.Ms.No.188 dated 28.12.1976 to argue that an inter-caste marriage certificate must be granted when one of the spouses belongs to Scheduled Castes.

The government advocate C. Jayaprakash contended that the Government had issued a clarification regarding inter-caste marriages via letter No.235, Social Welfare Department dated 21.07.1997, that dismantles the petitioner's claims. The said clarification establishes that conversion and the resultant community certificate does not warrant inter-caste marriage certificate, argued the counsel. Advocate C. Jayaprakash also relied on the inquiry report by Revenue Inspector, Mettur who recorded that both the petitioner and his wife belong to Scheduled Caste and are non-eligible for the requested certificate.

The court relied on the apex court judgment in Soosai Etc v. Union of India & Others, 1986 AIR 733 where it was mentioned that Scheduled Castes is defined in Clause 24 of Article 366 of Constitution as those cases encapsulated under Article 341 of the Constitution. In the High Court order, a relevant paragraph from the judgment is also extracted which mentions that caste system is a feature of the Hindu Social structure, peculiar to Hindu Society. Such demarcation based on vocation later moulded into a structural hierarchy, and then stratification that determined the status of an individual by birth, the court quotes from the Supreme Court judgment.

The court then relies on Andhra Pradesh High Court judgement in M.A.Salam Vs. Principal Secretary to Government of Andhra Pradesh (2003) to establish that inter-caste marriage certificates are meant to alleviate the same social stigma that an offspring faces, quite similar to the stigma that either of the parents may have suffered due to one of them hailing from a lower caste. In M.A Salam, the court uses an example to explain the concept further. If there was a marriage between a Brahmin and a Scheduled Tribe and the couple and the offspring is accepted and the offspring grows within the vicinity of its Brahmin community, then the offspring cannot claim Scheduled Tribes reservation since there wasn't any stigma attached to him/ her/ them while growing up. If the situation is reversed and the offspring is brought up as a part of the Scheduled Tribes Community, then the reservation can be availed.

Advocate C. Jayaprakash for the respondent authorities also mentioned that the Social Welfare Department of the Tamil Nadu Government had passed another order ascertaining the types of inter-caste marriages. According to the latest order, any of the spouses must belong to SC/ST and the other spouse may be from any other community. While this is the first instance, another instance where inter-caste marriage certificates can be granted would be cases where one of the spouses belongs to Backward Class/ Most Backward Class and the other spouse belongs to Forward Community or any other community.

"Thus, except the cases falling under the categories stated in the Government Order, no other couples are entitled to get inter-caste marriage certificates", the court accordingly dismissed the writ petition stating that there is no infirmity in the order refusing inter-caste marriage certificate.

Case Title: S. Paul Raj v. The Tahsildar, Mettur Thaluk & Anr.

Case No: W.P.No.15193 of 2016 & W.M.P.Nos.13240 & 13241 of 2016

Click Here To Read/ Download Order

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