A Commission led by former Chief Justice of India KG Balakrishnan has been appointed by the Centre through a notification dated October 6, 2022 to look into the issue of granting Scheduled Caste status to new individuals who claim to have historically belonged to the Scheduled Castes but have converted to a religion other than those listed in the Presidential Orders under Article 341 of the Indian Constitution.

The Presidential Orders state that only adherents of Buddhism, Sikhism, and Hinduism are eligible for SC status.

The notice has highlighted that while some groups have questioned whether the current definitions of Scheduled Caste should be reviewed and petitioned for additional people who belong to other religions beyond those permitted by presidential orders to be added to the definitions, many other groups have opposed the same.

It claims that certain representatives of the current Scheduled Caste have raised objections to the awarding of Scheduled Caste designation to new individuals due to the potential detrimental effects on the current Scheduled Caste members.

The announcement identifies the problem as a “seminal and historically complicated sociological and constitutional concern” but also notes that it is of public interest. As per the notification:

“Given its importance, sensitivity and potential impact, any change in definition in this regard should be on the basis of detailed and definitive study and extensive consultation with all stakeholders and no commission under the Commission of Enquiry Act, 1952 has so far enquired into the matter.”

In light of this, a commission has been established to investigate the issue. Former Chief Justice of India Justice K.G. Balakrishnan will preside over the Commission as its chairman. Dr. Ravindra Kumar Jain, a former IAS official, and Prof. Dr. Sushma Yadav, a member of the UGC, are also members of the panel.

The panel must also look at how new members of Scheduled Castes would affect those who already belong to the group. Additionally, it will look at the adjustments Scheduled Caste people make to their customs, traditions, and social and other status discrimination and deprivation after converting to other religions, as well as the implications of those changes for the debate over whether to grant them Scheduled Caste status.

The commission’s headquarters will be in New Delhi, and it must give its findings within two years.

The Supreme Court of India is now considering a PIL that the National Council of Dalit Christians (NCDC) filed asking for a directive to award Dalit Christians Scheduled Castes (SC) classification. The aforementioned PIL made reference to a 2007 study produced by the National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities, which was presided over by retired CJI Ranganath Misra and found value in awarding Dalit Christians Scheduled Caste status. The Supreme Court has requested the Centre to present its most recent position on the matter on August 31, 2022.

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