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Pranay murder: Dalit Christians' petition for Schedule Caste status lingers in SC

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Bengaluru, Sep 19: The brutal murder of Pranay in Telangana and Kevin P Joseph in Kottayam district brings to the fore vulnerability of Dalit Christians in India. Pranay was brutally hacked by alleged contract killers hired by his father-in-law in Hyderabad and Kevin P Joseph was allegedly killed by his wife's family members in July this year.

The Dalit Christians are not covered under the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, an Act of the Parliament of India enacted to prevent atrocities against scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.

Pranay and Kevin P Josephs murder: Dalit Christians petition for Schedule Caste status lingers in SC

In fact, the third paragraph of the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order 1950, popularly known as the Presidential Order, stipulates that "no person who professes a religion different from Hinduism shall be deemed to be a member of Scheduled Caste." Later, it was amended to include the Sikhs (1956) and Buddhists (1990) in the Scheduled Caste list.

Also Read | Dishonour killing of Dalit engineer: Father of girl fixed contract murder at Re 1 crore

A writ petition demanding Scheduled Caste status for Dalit Christian was filed On 23 March 2004 in the Supreme Court by Prashant Bhushan's Center for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) against Union of India. Supreme Court Advocate Franklyn Caesar Thomas, Dalit Christian from Tamil Nadu, is a co-petitioner.

Advocate Franklyn Caesar Thomas, says, "We are affected by the practice of untouchability in the Christian community. It's been 14 years since we filed the case. As on date, the Union of India has not filed their response."

The petitioner said Ranganath Misra Commission (Report of the National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities) recommended Scheduled Caste status for Dalit Christians.

The report says: "One of the reasons why the Scheduled Castes converts to Christians and Islam have been struggling to label themselves as Scheduled Castes is basically to seek protection under the special protective laws such as the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955 and the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 and protect themselves from the innumerable forms of indignities and atrocities inflicted upon them."

Franklyn Caesar Thomas, said, "We formally asked the National Commission for Minorities and for National Commission Scheduled Castes (NCSC) as respondents along with Union of India. But the NCSC did not file its response come to the apex court. The UPA did not resolve and likewise, NDA is also lingering on the issue without filing the response."

"On February 2015, the matter was referred to the larger Bench which consists of 5-7 judges. On that day the matter was not listed. Since 2015, the matter is pending before the Supreme Court and we are waiting for the hearing," said advocate Franklyn.

Franklyn further said that law doesn't treat us as Dalit/Schedule Caste people and even in Christianity, we face discrimination. However, Scheduled Tribes do not face the problem.

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