oppn parties Marriage Does Not Change Wife's Caste, Rules Surpeme Court

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Marriage Does Not Change Wife's Caste, Rules Surpeme Court

By Sunil Garodia

About the Author

Sunil Garodia Editor-in-Chief of indiacommentary.com. Current Affairs analyst and political commentator. Writes for a number of publications.
Can a wife, born in high caste and married to a scheduled caste, claim to be scheduled caste on the strength of her marriage? The Supreme Court has ruled she cannot. Citing convention, the court ruled that caste is determined by birth and cannot change upon marriage. The case that came up for hearing was one involving the vice-principal of Kendriya Vidyalaya, Pathankot. She was born as a general caste but obtained a SC certificate by citing her marriage to a SC man. By the facts of the case, it did not seem that there was any foul play on her part. It seemed a simple ignorance of law or its applicability. Even those who issued the certificate to her were not aware of how the caste law was to be applied and who was entitled to a certificate.

While one is not enamored of the caste system and the attending reservations it entails, it needs to be stated that the caste system as it stands today (and on the basis of which the scheduled castes were identified and affirmative action was put in place for them) is basically derived from the so-called purity of blood that is supposedly mentioned in ancient Hindu texts. Hence it is that khap panchayats and other self-styled guardians of Hindu morality prevent inter caste marriages – lest it infuse ‘impure’ blood in future generations. If this is taken as the basis of caste divisions, there can be no way that a wife born as an upper caste claim to be a SC on the basis of her marriage to any such person. She can never apply and obtain a SC certificate and she can never receive the benefits to which SC’s are entitled.

The apex court took cognizance of the fact that she had perhaps done nothing wrong and her mistake was in fact compounded by those who issued her the certificate, in this case the District Magistrate/Collector of Bulandshahar in UP. She was given the job on the basis of both her academic qualifications and the SC certificate. But her services were terminated when a complaint was lodged with the Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan and her SC certificate was subsequently cancelled. Her efforts to get the certificate reinstated were rejected by district authorities and she did not get any relief from the Allahabad High Court. Hence, she preferred this appeal in the Supreme Court.

The apex court categorically stated that “there cannot be any dispute that the caste is determined by birth and the caste cannot be changed by marriage with a person of scheduled caste. Undoubtedly, the appellant was born in “Agarwal” family, which falls in general category and not in scheduled caste. Merely because her husband is belonging to a scheduled caste category, the appellant should not have been issued with a caste certificate showing her caste as scheduled caste.” But keeping in mind her excellent service record and absence of foul play on her part, the court changed her dismissal from service to compulsory retirement. At the same time, the court asserted that the instant case could not be considered a precedent for similar cases in future, which would obviously be decided on case-to-case basis after examining material on record.