NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday granted three weeks to the Centre to clarify its stand on the pleas, including those raising the issue of Scheduled Castes (SC) reservation benefits to Dalits who have converted to other religions like Christianity and Islam.
One of the Public Interest Litigations (PIL) filed in the apex court has sought reservation for converted Dalits on the same footing as is extended to the Scheduled Castes following Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sikhism.
Another petition has sought directions to the government that Christians of Scheduled Castes origin be given the same reservation benefits reserved for the Scheduled Castes.
A bench headed by Justice S K Kaul was told by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta that the issue has ramifications and he would place on record the current stand of the government.
"Solicitor General submits that he would like to place on record the current position/stand on the issue in question which deals with the prayer for extension of the claim of reservation from Dalit communities to other religions other than the ones specified.
On his request, three weeks' time is granted," said the bench, also comprising Justices A S Oka and Vikram Nath.
The bench noted that counsel appearing for the petitioners have stated that they would file a response if any, within a week thereafter.
"Counsel for parties to file a short synopsis running into not more than three pages each at least three days before the next date. List on October 11," it said.
During the hearing, the apex court observed that the legal issue involved has to be settled.
"All these matters which are pending because of this 'social ramifications'. And when the day comes, we have to take a call," the bench orally observed.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for one of the petitioners, said the government had earlier appointed Justice Ranganath Misra Commission which gave a very detailed report on the issue.
"He is partly right in saying there was a commission appointed, Justice Rangnath Misra commission. But possibly, he missed the point that the government of the day did not accept the recommendations of the commission on the ground that they have not taken into consideration several facts," the solicitor general said.
One of the petitions pending before the apex court has said that a Scheduled Caste person professing a religion different from Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism cannot be deprived of the benefit of Paragraph 3 of the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950.
It said that change in religion does not change social exclusion and caste hierarchy continues to hold fort within Christianity even though the religion forbids it.
The petition contended that paragraph three of the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950 restricts Christians of Scheduled Castes origin from availing of the Scheduled Castes status.
It said that this restriction was against the fundamental right to equality, religious freedom, and non-discrimination.