On February 11, the Minister of Law and Justice Ravi Shankar Prasad informed the Rajya Sabha that Dalits who convert to Islam and Christianity will not be eligible to contest assembly or parliamentary elections from Scheduled Caste reserved constituencies, reported The Times of India.
Dalits taking to the above-mentioned faiths also cannot claim other reservation benefits. But according to a TOI report, the Law Minister clarified that those adopting Hindu, Sikh or Buddhist faith could contest from Scheduled Caste reserved seats and will be receiving other reservation benefits.
To the question asked by BJP leader GVL Narasimha Rao in Rajya Sabha, the minister said, “Paragraph 3 of the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) order outlines that…no person who professes a religion different from Hindu, Sikh or Buddhist religion shall be deemed to be a member of a Scheduled Caste”.
Further, the Union Minister also informed that at present, there is no proposal to bring in any amendment in the Representation of the People’s Act to disallow Scheduled Caste/ Scheduled Tribe converting to Islam and Christianity from contesting elections.
The Hindu also quoted Ravi Shankar Prasad saying that there were multiple judgments in place on quota to Dalit Muslims and that the Supreme Court had said that, “till the time you agree that you don’t face the same discrimination then benefits cannot be granted to you”.
This stance of the present government worsens the conditions of those Dalits who have converted to Islam or Christianity, the subject of a decades long Constitutional challenge, still pending before the Supreme Court. The root of this injustice lies in a 1950 Presidential (Scheduled Castes) Order, that specifically excludes Dalit Christians and Muslims from any schemes, affirmative action’s etc. that are allowed to others.
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