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Madras HC restores caste certificate to Hindu Pallan woman after officials scrapped it seeing a cross in her clinic

Scrutiny committee should have approached issue with a broader mind, says High Court

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The Madras High Court’s Madurai Bench has ruled that a Scheduled Caste community certificate, Pallan in the instant case, cannot be cancelled just because the person has been going to a place of worship of another faith or has displayed religious icons of that belief.

The bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice M. Duraiswamy was hearing a petition of a woman against the cancellation of a community certificate issued to her which had declared that she belonged to the Hindu Pallan community.

The court noted  there was no doubt the petitioner was granted a community certificate as belonging to the Hindu Pallan community, also there is no dispute that the petitioner was born to Hindu Pallan parents.

Chief Justice Banerjee remarked that the acts and conduct of the concerned authorities portray a degree of narrow-mindedness and that the Constitution does not encourage it. “Some specious excuses have been proffered which cannot be accepted. According to such affidavit, officials visited the clinic of the petitioner, since the petitioner is a doctor. Such officials apparently found a cross hanging on the wall and on the basis of such cross, the officials conjectured that the petitioner had converted to Christianity and was, thus, disqualified from retaining the Hindu Pallan community certificate,” the bench noted.

‘Mere fact that a person goes to church doesn’t mean such person has altogether abandoned original faith’

The bench said, “There is no suggestion in the affidavit that the petitioner has abandoned her faith or that the petitioner has embraced Christianity. It is equally possible that the petitioner, as a part of a family, may accompany the petitioner’s 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 bench remarked, “Nothing may be presumed upon a member of a particular community respecting another community or another religion and, indeed, that is the constitutional mandate and not otherwise.”

“It would do well for the members of the scrutiny committee to approach the matter with a broader mind than is evident in the present case,” the court suggested.

The court directed the restoration of the caste certificate originally issued in favour of the petitioner with immediate effect and quashed the action taken by the authorities as it appeared to be arbitrary and based on surmises and conjectures without any material fact in support.

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