21) It is not in dispute that Hindu Pallan Community is notified under the Presidential Order as Scheduled Caste. The appellant claims that though her father was a Christian, her mother continued to profess the customs of Hindu Pallan Community. It is her further case that her father deserted her mother when she was still a child and her mother brought her up as Hindu and her community accepted her and her mother as Hindu. Now the question is whether the appellant is professing and practicing Hinduism. The appellant claims that though her father is a Christian, her mother continues to profess Hindu religion and it is her further case that she was born and brought up as a Hindu by her mother and she continues to profess Hindu faith and in order to reaffirm her faith in Hinduism, she has undergone rituals in Arya Samaj Madurai, and in proof of it she has produced the duplicate copy of the certificate. At the time of hearing of this appeal a lot of debate was generated by both the sides pwith regard to certificate of conversion issued by the Arya Samaj. The appellant in support her view in her evidence has stated the various rituals she followed in the Arya Samaj to reaffirm her faith in Hindu faith, the reason why she is not in a position to produce the original certificate issued and the necessity for production of duplicate certificate. Since this forms the fulcrum of the case, the learned counsel for the respondents pointed out so called various discrepancies in the certificate and to say the least, the length, breadth, borders, dates, signature in the certificate. We will refer to these, when we discuss the veracity of the certificate produced by the appellant to reaffirm her faith in Hindu religion which she claims has professed right from her childhood. Before we do that, it is desirable to notice certain observation made by this court in the case of Perumal Nadar v. Ponnuswami, [1970 (1) SCC 605. This court observed :
“6. A person may be a Hindu by birth or by conversion. A mere theoretical allegiance to the Hindu faith by a person born in another faith does not convert him into a Hindu, nor is a bare declaration that he is a Hindu sufficient to convert him to Hinduism. But a bona fide intention to be converted to the Hindu faith, accompanied by conduct unequivocally expressing that intention may be sufficient evidence of conversion. No formal ceremony of purification or expiation is necessary to effectuate conversion.
8. In Goona Durgaprasada Rao v. Goona Sudarasanaswami Mockett, J., observed that no gesture or declaration may change a man’s religion, but when on the facts it appears that a man did change his religion and was accepted by his coreligionists as having changed his religion and lived and died in that religion, absence of some formality cannot negative what is an actual fact. Krishnaswami Ayyangar, J., observed that a Hindu who had converted himself to the Christian faith returned to Hinduism and contracted a second marriage during the life-time of his first wife and remained and died a Hindu having been accepted as such by the community and co-religionists without demur. Absence of evidence of rituals relating to conversion cannot justify the Court in treating him as having remained a Christian.”
22) In the case of Ganpat v. Returning Officer, (1975) 1 SCC 589, it was observed:
“11. In this connection it is necessary to remember that Hinduism is a very broad based religion. In fact some people take the view that it is not a religion at all on the ground that there is no one founder and no one sacred book for the Hindus. This, of course, is a very narrow view merely based on the comparison between Hinduism on the one side and Islam and Christianity on the other. But one knows that Hinduism through the ages has absorbed or accommodated many different practices, religious as well as secular, and also different faiths. One of the witnesses has described that he considered Buddha as the eleventh Avtar…… Hinduism is so tolerant and Hindu religious practices so varied and eclectic that one would find it difficult to say whether one is practising or professing Hindu religion or not.”
23) In Kothapalli Narasayya vs. Jammana Jogi AIR 1976 SC 937, it is stated:-
“These cases show that the consistent view taken in this country from the time Administrator-General of Madras v. Anandachari was decided, that is, since 1886, has been that on reconversion to Hinduism, a person can once again become a member of the caste in which he was born and to which he belonged before conversion to another religion, if the members of the caste accept him as a member. There is no reason either on principle or on authority which should compel us to disregard this view which has prevailed for almost a century and lay down a different rule on the subject. If a person who has embraced another religion can be reconverted to Hinduism, there is no rational principle why he should not be able to come back to his caste, if the other members of the caste are prepared to readmit him as a member. It stands to reason that he should be able to come back to the fold to which he once belonged, provided of course the community is willing to take him within the fold.... A Mahar or a Koli or a Mala would not be recognised as anything but a Mahar or a Koli or a Mala after reconversion to Hinduism and he would suffer from the same social and economic disabilities from which he suffered before he was converted to another religion. It is, therefore, obvious that the object and purpose of the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950 would be advanced rather than retarded by taking the view that on reconversion to Hinduism, a person can once again become a member of the Scheduled Caste to which he belonged prior to his conversion. We accordingly agree with the view taken by the High Court that on reconversion to Hinduism, the first respondent could once again revert to his original Adi Dravida caste if he was accepted as such by the other members of the caste.”
24) In S. Anbalagan vs. B. Devarajan and others (1984) 2 SCC 112, it is observed:-
“These precedents, particularly those from South India, clearly establish that no particular ceremony is prescribed for reconversion to Hinduism of a person who had earlier embraced another religion. Unless the practice of the caste makes it necessary, no expiatory rites need be performed and, ordinarily, he regains his caste unless the community does not accept him. In fact, it may not be accurate to say that he regains his caste; it may be more accurate to say that he never lost his caste in the first instance when he embraced another religion. The practice of caste however irrational it may appear to our reason and however repugnant it may appear to our moral and social sense, is so deep-rooted in the Indian people that its mark does not seem to disappear on conversion to a different religion. If it disappears, it disappears only to reappear on reconversion. The mark of caste does not seem to really disappear even after some generations after conversion.”
25) In Kailash Sonkar vs. Smt. Maya Devi [(1984) 2 SCC 91], this court speaking through FAZAL ALI, J. made the following observation.
“In our opinion, there is one aspect which does not appear to have been dealt with by any of the cases discussed by us. Suppose, A, a member of the scheduled caste, is converted to Christianity and marries a Christian girl and a daughter is born to him who, according to the tenets of Christian religion, is baptised and educated. After she has attained the age of discretion she decides of her own volition to re-embrace Hinduism, should in such a case revival of the caste depend on the views of the members of the community of the caste concerned or would it automatically revive on her reconversion if the same is genuine and followed by the necessary rites and ceremonies? In other words, is it not open for B (the daughter) to say that because she was born of Christian parents their religion cannot be thrust on her when after attaining the age of discretion and gaining some knowledge of the world affairs, she decides to revert to her old religion. It was not her fault that she was born of Christian parents and baptised at a time when she was still a minor and knew nothing about the religion. Therefore, should the revival of the caste depend on the whim or will of the members of the community of her original caste or she would lose her caste for ever merely because fortunately or unfortunately she was born in a Christian family? With due respect, our confirmed opinion is that although the views of the members of the community would be an important factor, their views should not be allowed to (sic) a complete loss of the caste to which B belonged. Indeed, if too much stress is laid on the views of the members of the community the same may lead to dangerous exploitation.
But from that it does not necessarily follow as an invariable rule that whenever a person renounces Hinduism and embraces another religious faith, he automatically ceases to be a member of the caste in which he was born and to which he belonged prior to his conversion…. If the structure of the caste is such that its members must necessarily belong to Hindu religion, a member, who ceases to be a Hindu, would go out of the caste, because no non-Hindu can be in the caste according to its rules and regulations. Where, on the other hand, having regard to its structure, as it has evolved over the years, a caste may consist not only of persons professing Hindu religion but also persons professing some other religion as well, conversion from Hinduism to that other religion may not involve loss of caste, because even persons professing such other religion can be members of the caste.... This is indeed not an infrequent phenomenon in South India where, in some of the castes, even after conversion to Christianity, a person is regarded as continuing to belong to the caste.”
26) In C.M. Arumugam vs. S. Rajgopal and Others (1976) 1 SCC 863; the following observation is made by this Court.
“These cases show that the consistent view taken in this country from the time Administrator-General of Madras v. Anandachari was decided, that is, since 1886, has been that on reconversion to Hinduism, a person can once again, become a member of the caste in which he was born and to which he belonged before conversion to another religion, if the members of the caste accept him as a member. There is no reason either on principle or on authority which should compel us to disregard this view which has prevailed for almost a century and lay down a different rule on the subject. If a person who has embraced another religion can be reconverted to Hinduism, there is no rational principle why he should not be able to come back to his caste, if the other members of the caste are prepared to readmit him as a member. It stands to reason that he should be able to come back to the fold to which he once belonged, provided of course the community is willing to take him within the fold. It is the orthodox Hindu society still dominated to a large extent, particularly in rural areas, by medievalistic outlook and status-oriented approach which attaches social and economic disabilities to a person belonging to a scheduled caste and that is why certain favoured treatment is given to him by the Constitution. Once such a person ceases to be a Hindu and becomes a Christian, the social and economic disabilities arising because of Hindu religion cease and hence it is no longer necessary to give him protection and for this reason he is deemed not to belong to a scheduled caste. But when he is reconverted to Hinduism, the social and economic disabilities once again revive and become attached to him because these are disabilities inflicted by Hinduism.”
27) We must remember, as observed by this Court in Ganpat’s case, Hinduism is not a religion with one God or one Holy Scripture. The practices of Hindus vary from region to region, place to place. The Gods worshipped, the customs, Traditions, Practice, rituals etc, they all differ, yet all these people are Hindus. The determination of the religious acceptance of a person must be not be made on his name or his birth. When a person intends to profess Hinduism, and he does all that is required by the practices of Hinduism in the region or by the caste to which he belongs, and he is accepted as a Hindu by all persons around him.
28) Hinduism appears to be very complex religion. It is like a centre of gravity doll which always regain its upright position however much it may be upset. Hinduism does not have a single founder, a single book, a singe church or even a single way of life. Hinduism is not the caste system and its hierarchies, though the system is a part of its social arrangement, based on the division of labour. Hinduism does not preach or uphold untouchability, though the Hindu Society has practiced it, firstly due to reasons of public health and later, due to prejudices. (copied in tits and bits from the book facets of Hinduism by Sri Swami Harshananda).
29) It is a settled principle of law that to prove a conversion from one religion to another, two elements need to be satisfied. First, there has to be a conversion and second acceptance into the community to which the person converted. It is obvious that the need of a conversion cannot be altogether done away with.