The Centre has not formed a commission to study the probabilities of providing Scheduled Caste status for Dalit converts, Union Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment A Narayanaswamy told the Lok Sabha on Tuesday.
The answer was given in response to a question by Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party MP Margani Bharat, who had sought details about the committee if it had been formed.
The response came despite the government’s statement from October 6 that it has formed a panel to examine the matter of according Scheduled Caste status to those who were Dalits but have converted to religions that are not mentioned in the Presidential order under Article 341 of the Constitution.
The order states that the Scheduled Caste status is available only to persons of Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist faiths.
According to the government notification, former Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan was chosen to lead the commission which also included retired Indian Administrative Service officer Ravinder Kumar Jain and member of the University Grants Commission Professor Sushma Yadav.
The Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment had said in the notification that the matter is a “seminal and historically complex sociological and constitutional question” which makes it a definite matter of public importance.
The matter is being heard by the Supreme Court.
In August, the Supreme Court had sought the Centre’s response on a plea claiming that the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order of 1950 – which was amended to say that only Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs will be considered to be Scheduled Castes – discriminates on grounds of religion.
The non-governmental organisation Centre for Public Interest Litigation had filed the plea in 2004.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing on behalf of the NGO, had cited the Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission report released in 2007 that said Dalits in other religions are subjected to the same discrimination as in Hinduism.
In an affidavit in November, the Union government had opposed the Scheduled Caste status for Dalit converts, contending that the system of untouchability does not exist in the two religions.
In 2011, National Commission for Scheduled Castes had told the Supreme Court that it recommended providing reservations to Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims, provided they fulfil two conditions – if they continue to practice their traditions and customs as they did before conversion, and if they continue to face social disabilities due to untouchability.