24 Jan 2010

Woman retains SC status after marriage: High Court

In a recently delivered decision, a larger bench of Bombay High Court has declared that a woman born as a Scheduled Caste does not lose her status as a member of the Scheduled Caste even if she is married to a husband from forward caste. The High Court was examining the viability of the contention that “ If a woman who by birth belongs to a scheduled caste or a scheduled tribe marries to a man belonging to a forward caste, whether on marriage she ceases to belong to the scheduled caste or the scheduled tribe?" in the context of the proposition as to whether an offence under the provisions of Atrocities Act can be registered and investigated against a person who abuses a woman in the name of her caste even though she is married to a person belonging to forward caste. The High Court declared in the negative. 

The High Court inter-alia observed as under;

8. A Constitution Bench of the Apex Court in the case of V.V. Giri vs. D. Suri Dora,(1960) 1 SCR 42 dealt with the issue as to whether a person who is a member of a scheduled tribe can cease to be a member of such tribe and can be said to have become a member of another caste. The Apex Court observed thus:
“That contention is that Respondent 1 had ceased to be a member of the scheduled tribe at the material time because he had become a kshatriya. In dealing with this contention it would be essential to bear in mind the broad and recognised features of the hierarchical social structure prevailing amongst the Hindus. It is not necessary for our present purpose to trace the origin and growth of the caste system amongst the Hindus. It would be enough to state that whatever may have been the origin of Hindu castes and tribes in ancient times, gradually status came to be based on birth alone. It is well known that a person who belongs by birth to a depressed caste or tribe would find it very difficult, if not impossible, to attain the status of a higher caste amongst the Hindus by virtue of his volition, education, culture and status. The history of social reform for the last century and more has shown how difficult it is to break or even to relax the rigour of the inflexible and exclusive character of the caste system. It is to be hoped that this position will change, and in course of time the cherished ideal of casteless society truly based on social equality will be attained under the powerful impact of the doctrine of social justice and equality proclaimed by the Constitution and sought to be implemented by the relevant statutes and as a result of the spread of secular education and the growth of a rational outlook and of proper sense of social values; but at present it would be unrealistic and utopian to ignore the difficulties which a member of the depressed tribe or caste has to face in claiming a higher status amongst his co-religionists.”(Emphasis added)
Thus, membership of a caste is involuntary. Historically persons carrying on one particular occupation may belong to one particular social class forming a particular caste. A person born in a family belonging to a particular caste which is associated with a particular occupation may not continue the occupation. But still he remains and continues to be a member of a social class forming the said caste. The reason is that the label remains. For the purposes of marriage and all other social functions up to his or her death, the caste continues to be relevant. Notwithstanding all attempts of weeding out this phenomenon, the stark reality is that the theme still remains the same.
12. When a woman born in a scheduled caste or a scheduled tribe marries to a person belonging to a forward caste, her caste by birth does not change by virtue of the marriage. A person born as a member of scheduled caste or a scheduled tribe has to suffer from disadvantages, disabilities and indignities only by virtue of belonging to the particular caste which he or she acquires involuntarily on birth. The suffering of such a person by virtue of caste is not wiped out by a marriage with the person belonging to a forward caste. The label attached to a person born into a scheduled caste or a scheduled tribe continues notwithstanding the marriage. No material has been placed before us by the applicant so as to point out that the caste of a person can be changed either by custom, usage, religious sanction or provision of law.
13. If the interpretation sought to be put by the learned counsel appearing for the applicant is accepted, it will defeat the very object of enacting the said Act. It will defeat the innovative steps taken by the framers of our constitution for protecting the persons belonging to scheduled castes and scheduled tribes who have suffered for generations.
14. Thus, the question formulated by the learned Single Judge will have to be answered in the affirmative. The question formulated by us in paragraph one will have to be answered in the negative. A woman who is born into a scheduled caste or a scheduled tribe, on marriage with a person belonging to a forward caste, is not automatically transplanted into the caste of husband by virtue of her marriage and, therefore, she cannot be said to belong to her husband’s caste.

1 comment:

satwant said...

after marriage what will be the status of woman? if she comes from SC caste then she can claim the benefits of SC caste or not.