The court was hearing a plea filed by the National Council of Dalit Christians (NCDC), seeking Scheduled Caste status for Dalit Christians.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to examine a plea seeking directions to the government that Christians of Scheduled Castes origin be given the same benefits as Scheduled Castes. The plea, filed by National Council of Dalit Christians (NCDC) seeking Scheduled Caste status for Dalit Christians, also sought that the Scheduled Castes community be made religion-neutral.
A bench comprising Chief Justice S A Bobde and justices Surya Kant and B R Gavai issued notice to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, National Commission for Scheduled Castes, National Commission for Minorities and Registrar General of India.
The apex court sought the government's response in two weeks and tagged the matter along with a similar matter.
"Allow and extend the Scheduled Castes status to Christians of Scheduled Castes Origin for availing special privilege in education, scholarships, employment, welfare measures, panchayat elections, legislative assemblies up to Indian Parliament and for availing the legal remedy/protection under Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention) of Atrocities Act, 1989 amended in the year 2018," the plea said.
The plea said that a Scheduled Caste person professing a religion different from Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism cannot be deprived of the benefit of Paragraph 3 of the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950.
It also said that change in religion does not change social exclusion and caste hierarchy continues to hold fort within Christianity even though the religion forbids it.
The petition contended that paragraph three of the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950 restricts Christians of Scheduled Castes origin from availing the Scheduled Castes status.
It said that this restriction was against the fundamental right to equality, religious freedom and non-discrimination.
(With PTI inputs)