The Madras High Court has ruled that a person professing a particular religion and belonging to a backward or most backward or scheduled caste community will lose the community status on converting to another religion.

Justice V. Ramasubramanian decided the question of law recently in a writ petition filed by a religious convert who claimed backward class status so that she could have better access to a government job. Dismissing the petition, Mr. Justice Ramasubramanian said, “No person can acquire backwardness or most backwardness socially, upon conversion from one religion to another. Backwardness is determined by birth and not by conversion.”

“Today, a person who belongs to a community, which is a forward community, cannot get converted to Islam and suddenly become eligible to claim the benefit of reservation available to backward class (Muslims). If this is permitted, the yardstick for determining social backwardness will be left entirely to the will of the individual. Therefore, by conversion, a person cannot acquire the social status that is normally available to persons already professing that religion,” he said.

He also pointed out that Supreme Court had held that “if a Hindu is converted to Christianity or another religion, which does not recognise caste, the conversion amounts to a loss of the said caste.” The Judge also noted that a Division Bench of the Madras High Court in 1952 ruled that “a convert ceases to have any caste.”

The petitioner, S. Yasmine, was born to a couple belonging to the Christian Nadar community, classified as backward class. She got converted to Islam and married a Muslim.

When she had crossed the age of 30, she applied for a Group IV post in the State government in 2012. She cleared the written examination.

At the time of counselling, she was told that as she had converted from Christianity to Islam, she would be treated as a candidate belonging to ‘other communities’ not entitled to any reservation.

Later, her candidature was rejected, as she had crossed 30 years, the upper age limit fixed for open category candidates.

Upper age limit

The upper age limit fixed for backward class communities is 35. Challenging the communication, she filed the petition for a direction that she be treated as a candidate belonging to backward class (Muslim) category. If that was done, she would fall below the upper age limit.

Dismissing her petition, the Judge said the authorities were right in treating the category to which she belonged after conversion as 'other communities'.

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