Can Displaying Holy Cross, Going to Church be Reason to Cancel SC Certificate? No, Says Madras HC

The Madras High Court has said a Holy Cross and other religious symbols and practices displayed by a Dalit cannot be cited to cancel their SC community certificate, calling it “bureaucratic narrow-mindedness that the Constitution never foresaw”.

The first bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice M Duraiswamy held that merely because a member of the Dalit community married a Christian and her children have been recognised as members of her husband’s community, the certificate issued to her cannot be cancelled, the Times of India reported.

The court was hearing a petition filed by P Muneeswari of Ramanathapuram district in 2016, who sought to quash a 2013 order passed by the district collector cancelling her community certificate. Muneeswari, a doctor by profession, was born to Hindu (Scheduled Caste) parents and later married a Christian, raising her children also as members of Christian community. This, however, led to cancellation of her certificate.

When she challenged the decision in court, officials said they visited her clinic and found a ‘cross’ hanging on the wall. On this basis, the officials conjectured that she had converted to Christianity and was, thus, disqualified from retaining the community certificate, the report said.

The argument, however, irked the court which said there was no suggestion in the affidavit that she has abandoned her faith or that she has embraced Christianity. “It is equally possible that she, as a part of a family, may accompany her husband and children for Sunday matins, but the mere fact that a person goes to church does not mean that such person has altogether abandoned the original faith to which such person was born,” the judges said, asking members of the scrutiny committee to approach the matter with a broader mind than is evident in the present case.

Quashing the order, the court asked the authorities to restore the certificate with immediate effect.

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