The court passed the order while hearing a plea filed by a Dalit man who had converted to Christianity in a bid to get an inter-caste marriage certificate that will enable him to attain priority in government jobs.
In a significant decision, the Madras High Court has ruled that the caste of a person does not change owing to religious conversion and an inter-caste marriage certificate can’t be issued on the pretext of his community certificate when he originally belonged to another caste and religion.
The order was passed by Justice SM Subramaniam while hearing a plea filed by a Dalit man who had converted to Christianity in a bid to get an inter-caste marriage certificate that will enable him to attain priority in government jobs. According to the law, Dalit-converts are treated as backward community (BC) members and not as scheduled castes. While the petitioner was an Electrical & Electronics Engineering graduate, his wife has done Masters in Physical Education. The petitioner belonged to Christian Adi-Dravida while the girl belonged to the Hindu Arunthathiyar community.
As per the government order, “Where one of the spouses belongs to SC/ST, then inter-caste marriage certificate has to be issued in favour of the petitioner”.
The petitioner’s counsel submitted in the court that the petitioner was issued with the community certificate as ‘Backward Caste’ and his wife was issued with the community certificate as ‘Scheduled Caste’ and therefore, it is an inter-caste marriage and accordingly, the petitioner is entitled to get inter-caste marriage certificate for the purpose of availing the benefits including priority in public employment.
Taking into account government orders issued from time to time and previous verdicts issued by the Supreme Court of India, the Madras HC said in its order, “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. In the present case, 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….Therefore, the classification cannot be a ground for the purpose of issuing an inter-caste marriage certificate. The certificate itself is named as “inter-caste marriage certificate”.
Therefore, by 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 ruled.
The court said that to prevent the abuse of welfare schemes granted by virtue of inter-caste marriage certificate, it is pertinent to issue the certificate only if ‘one of the spouses belongs to the Scheduled Caste and another spouse belongs to the other caste, but not otherwise’.