The Union government has formed a Commission of Inquiry to examine the issue of whether Scheduled Caste (SC) status can be accorded to Dalits who have over the years converted to religions other than Sikhism or Buddhism. The three-member Commission is headed by former Chief Justice of India, Justice K.G. Balakrishnan.

 

Background

  • Currently, the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950 stipulates that no person professing a religion different from Hinduism, Buddhism or Sikhism can be deemed to be a member of a Schedule Caste.
      • The original order under which only Hindus were classified was later amended to include Sikhs and Buddhists.
  • A batch of petitions were filed in the Supreme Court seeking the inclusion of Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims and the removal of the religion criteria for inclusion as SCs.
  • In August 2022, the Supreme Court had directed the Centre to submit its current position on the issue.
  • In light of that, the Union Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment issued a notification to form a three-member Commission to study the matter.

 

About the Commission

  • The three-member Commission is headed by former Chief Justice of India, Justice K.G. Balakrishnan.
  • Objectives —
      • To examine the issue of whether Scheduled Caste (SC) status can be accorded to Dalits who have over the years converted to religions other than Sikhism or Buddhism.
      • To look into the changes an SC person goes through after converting to another religion and its implications on the question of including them as SCs.
      • These will include examining their traditions, customs, social and other forms of discrimination and how and whether they have changed as a result of the conversion.
      • To examine any other related questions that it deemed appropriate, in consultation with and with the consent of the Central government.
  • The Commission has been given a two-year deadline to submit a report on the issue.