HYDERABAD: The Hyderabad High Court has made it clear that once a member of Schedule Caste or Scheduled Tribe converts to Christianity or some other religion, such a person ceases to be a member of SC or ST and is no longer covered under the provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
Rao, his wife and their son moved the High Court seeking quashing of proceedings against them in a case before the second additional judicial first class magistrate, Anakapalli, Visakhapatnam district of Andhra Pradesh.
The case was registered against them for offences punishable under various sections of IPC and Section 3(1)(x) of SC/ST (POA) Act, basing on a complaint lodged by their neighbour (de facto complainant) Srinivas who claimed that he had been abused in the name of his caste.
He said he belonged to the SC Mala community and was pastor at a church. Police said in their report after investigation that his wife and others categorically deposed that Srinivas was professing Christianity. It is clear that they converted to Christianity and were running a church and Srinivas was serving as pastor by professing Christianity though he was basically a Hindu SC by caste.
Further, the caste certificate issued in favour of Srinivas as ‘SC Mala’ had been cancelled, the police said.
Rao and his family urged the High Court to quash the case against them pending before the lower court, saying that Srinivas had made false allegations to implicate them by abusing the SC/ST Act.
They contended that there were no worthy ingredients of the case to attract other sections of IPC either against them. They relied upon a judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of Chatturbhuj Vithaladas Jasani vs Moreshwar Parashram and others to buttress their argument.
On the other hand, Srinivas submitted that mere conversion to Christianity or professing Christianity in no way nullified his original caste by birth and the proceedings against Rao and his family were therefore not liable to be quashed.
After hearing both sides and perusing the material on record and various court judgments, justice B Siva Sankara Rao said, “The disabilities and handicaps do not continue after conversion. Thus, if a Scheduled Caste Hindu converts to another religion, except Sikh and Buddhist, that person ceases to be a member of the Scheduled Caste and cannot invoke the provisions of SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.”