The government will set up a panel to study the condition of scheduled castes converting to Christianity and Islam. The central government wants to set up a national commission to study the social, economic and educational status of Scheduled Castes or Dalits who have converted to religions other than Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism.

The proposal for setting up such a commission is being actively discussed at the Center and a decision is likely to be taken soon, The Indian Express reported. Sources in the Ministry of Minority Affairs and Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) said that they have given approval for the move. According to sources, discussions are going on between the ministries of Home, Law, Social Justice and Empowerment and Finance on this proposal.

Commission will have three to four members : 

The move to set up such a commission assumes significance in view of several petitions pending in the Supreme Court for Dalits who want the benefits of SC reservation for Dalits who convert to Christianity or Islam. The proposed commission may have three to four members, headed by a person of the rank of a Union cabinet minister. The panel will have a possible time limit of up to one year to submit its report.

The proposed commission will study the impact of adding more members to the existing SC list, apart from studying the change in status and status of Dalits who have converted to Christianity or Islam.

Under Article 341 of the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order 1950, any person professing a religion other than Hinduism, Sikhism or Buddhism is not deemed to be a member of a Scheduled Caste. Under the original order only Hindus were classified as SC. Later Sikhs in 1956 and followers of Buddhism were included in this list by amendment in 1990.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta informs Supreme Court Bench

On August 30, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta informed the Supreme Court Bench headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul that he would take on record the government’s stand on the issue raised by the petitioners. Justices Abhay S Oka and Vikram Nath were also included in this bench. The Bench gave the Solicitor General three weeks’ time and listed the matter for October 11.

Sources in the Ministry of Minority Affairs said setting up of a commission on the issue was necessitated as the issue is important, but there is no definite data available to study its various aspects and arrive at a clear position.

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