Madras HC says just going to Church and displaying Christian symbols does not mean a person has converted

Madras HC says just going to Church and displaying Christian symbols does not mean a person has converted

Quashing the cancellation order released by a scrutiny committee to scrap the Scheduled Caste certificate of a woman, the Madurai Bench of Madras High Court observed that merely following Christian practices cannot be the ground to cancel the caste certificate. 

Calling it a bureaucratic narrow-mindedness, the bench further advised the committee to deal with such matters with a broad mindset in the future.

Details of the petition and hearing

The petition was filed in 2016 by P Muneeswari, a doctor from Ramanathapuram, seeking to quash a 2013 order passed by the district collector cancelling her community certificate.

Muneeswari was born to Hindu pallan (a Scheduled Caste) parents. She later married a Christian and decided to bring up her children as members of the Christian community. 

While hearing her petition, a Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice M Duraiswamy criticized the committee for assuming that she converted to Christianity by seeing a few symbols. 

“There is no suggestion in the affidavit that she has abandoned her faith or that she has embraced Christianity. It is possible that the petitioner accompanied her husband and children for Sunday matins, but the mere fact that a person goes to church does not mean she abandoned the faith born into,” observed the Chief Justice. 

“Nothing may be presumed upon a member of a particular community respecting another community or another religion and, indeed, that is the Constitutional mandate and not otherwise,” the Bench remarked further. 

Reportedly, the committee had submitted that the officials who visited her clinic, found a Holy Cross hanging on the wall. Basis this the officials insinuated that she had converted to Christianity and was, thus, disqualified from retaining the Hindu pallan community certificate. 

Observing that the action taken by authorities was based on assumptions, the judges quashed the order passed by the district collector. 

The authorities have also been directed to restore the certificate originally issued in favour of Muneeswari with immediate effect. 

Benefits of centrally sponsored schemes for SCs can’t be given to Converted Christians

Meanwhile, the Central government in the month of August, in response to a question in the Parliament had clarified that no person who professes a religion different from the Hindu, Sikh or Buddhist shall be deemed to be a member of a Scheduled Caste. 

As such, the benefits of Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS) meant for the welfare and development of Scheduled Castes can not be extended to Converted Christians from Scheduled Castes.

According to reports from Andhra Pradesh, an estimated 80 per cent of Christian converts were from the SCs and were enjoying the benefits which include allotment of land/house, free electricity, and loans that are intended to benefit Hindu SCs.

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