Big Question: Can Muslims and Christians claim the SC status? Let’s find out!

Who can claim the Scheduled Caste (SC) status often becomes a matter of hot debate. Can Muslims and Christians claim SC status in the country? What does the law say? Let’s find out.
Can Muslims and Christians claim the SC status?
Can Muslims and Christians claim the SC status?

In order to understand what the law says, one needs first to understand what the Kerala HC stated on the election of a Raja from the Devikulam Assembly constituency situated in the Idukki district. The court held the election of CPI(M) legislator, A. Raja, as null and void. The court held that being a baptized Christian, he is not eligible to contest for a seat that is reserved for the Scheduled Castes (SC) members.


Facts of the case

D. Kumar, the petitioner, challenged Raja’s election in the year 2020 on the ground that the constituency for which the election was to be held was actually reserved for the Scheduled Caste among the Hindus. As per Kumar, the latter did not belong to the Scheduled Caste among the Hindus within Kerala. A. Raja is actually a Christian. As per the petition, this is a clear violation of Section 5 of the Representation of Peoples Act, 1951

D. Kumar lost the election of 2021 to A. Raja. The plea by Kumar alleged Raja was a baptized Christian who cannot be considered a part of the Scheduled Caste community after he changed his religion. 


Over several years, the courts have been discussing and pondering the question of whether the SC status can encompass Muslims and Christian Dalits.


What does the Centre have to say on the issue?

Last year, in the month of November, the Supreme Court pondered upon the issue in the case of the Centre for Public Interest Litigation and another v. Union of India. The Central government submitted in the case that the Constitution (Scheduled Caste) Order, 1950 thus challenged in the case is actually based on historical data. The historical data set that “no oppression or backwardness was ever faced by members of Christian or Islamic Society.”

The Centre also filed an affidavit that stated that Dalits convert to Christianity or Islam because they wish to come out of oppressive systems like untouchability in Hinduism. This clearly implies that such oppressive systems are not prevalent in Christianity or Islam.

To support its argument, the Centre stated a dissenting note from the National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities report. It stated that both Christianity and Islam are foreign religions. These religions do not recognize the case system. Giving the SC status to the converts will, in a way, introduce the caste system in these religions too.


On 7th October 2022, the Centre established a commission comprising three members. The commission was headed by former Chief Justice of India, KG Balakrishnan. 

The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950

In the year 1950, the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order while the Constitution was being framed. The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order was issued under Article 31 of the Constitution which talks about the fact that the President may notify and specify the “castes, races or tribes or parts of or groups within castes, races or tribes, which shall for the purposes of this Constitution be deemed to be Scheduled Caste”, for any State or UT.


The original order had been passed in the year 1950. The order permitted only Hindus to come under the umbrella of SCs. Gradually, however, situations changed and it was amended to incorporate Sikhs in the year 1956, and then Buddhists in the year 1990, due to immense political pressure. In spite of all these amendments, there has been no provision to incorporate backward communities within Muslims and Christians under the definition of SCs.

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