Caste determined by birth, cannot be changed by marriage, Supreme Court [Read judgment]

Caste determined by birth, cannot be changed by marriage, Supreme Court [Read judgment]

Bar & Bench

Supreme Court has reiterated that caste of a person is determined by birth and it cannot be changed by marriage.

A Bench of Justices Arun Mishra and M Shantanagoudar made these observations in a recent judgment in a case relating to the caste of a woman who had been born in a General Caste category.

The appellant, Sunita Singh, who was born in a General caste community married Dr. Veer Singh belonging to a Scheduled Caste community.

After the marriage, a caste certificate was issued to her by the District Magistrate/ Collector certifying her as belonging to Scheduled Caste community of her husband. Based on her academic qualifications and the caste certificate, she was appointed initially as a Post Graduate Teacher (Hindi) at Kendriya Vidyalaya No.1, Pathankot, Punjab. During the course of her service, she completed her M.Ed and served the institution for about 21 years as teacher.

Subsequently, a complaint was lodged against the appellant to the effect that she was born in “Agarwal” family and after her marriage with a person of scheduled caste, she obtained a caste certificate in question. After making preliminary verification, the jurisdictional officer directed an enquiry in respect of the caste certificate of the appellant. Subsequently, the Tehsildar cancelled the caste certificate of the appellant and asked the appellant to return the caste certificate.

Kendriya Vidyala terminated her services based on the same.

The appellants appealed against the order of Tehsildar, which was dismissed by the Appellate Authority, State Level Committee and then by the Allahabad High Court resulting in appeal to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court in its judgment held that caste is determined by birth and it cannot be changed by marriage with a person of Scheduled Caste.

“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. In that regard, the orders of the authorities as well as the judgment of the High Court cannot be faulted.”

However, as regards termination of her services from Kendriya Vidyala, the court noted that she had served as a Teacher and Vice-Principal of Kendriya Vidyalaya without any black spot in her service career for about 21 years, and that she was going to retire shortly. Hence, it took a lenient view and directed that the order of termination be converted to an order of compulsory retirement.

“While exercising leniency, we have also kept in mind that the appellant has neither played fraud nor misrepresented before any of the authorities for getting the caste certificate and while continuing in service based on the caste certificate. No questions were raised against her till the complaint in question came to be lodged, even when the authorities had seen the High School Certificate, Marks Sheet etc. showing her caste as Agarwal at the initial stage. Having regard to the totality of the facts of the case, the impugned judgment of the High Court is modified. “The order of termination from service” passed against the appellant shall be treated as “the order of compulsory retirement”.  

Read the judgment below.

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