Pointing out that going to church or hanging a cross on the wall does not necessarily mean that one has abandoned the original faith to which one was born, the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court recently ordered the restoration of the Scheduled Caste community certificate to a woman who was married to a Christian.
A division bench consisting of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice M Duraiswamy made the observation while hearing the petition filed by a woman doctor from Ramanathapuram who was seeking to quash an order passed by the district collector in 2013, cancelling her community certificate signifying that the petitioner belonged to the Hindu Pallan community.
“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,” the bench said as they ordered the Ramanathapuram district administration to immediately restore the community certificate issued to the woman.
“The acts and conduct of the respondents portray a degree of narrow-mindedness that the Constitution does not encourage,” the court said.
There is no doubt that the petitioner, in this case, was granted a community certificate as belonging to the Hindu Pallan community, the court noted.
“There is even no dispute that the petitioner was born to Hindu Pallan parents,” it said.
In the counter-affidavit, the authorities said that they had visited the petitioner’s medical clinic, where they found a cross hanging on the wall. On the basis of such a cross, the officials conjectured that the petitioner had converted to Christianity and was, thus, disqualified from retaining the Hindu Pallan community certificate, the court order said.
“However, merely because the petitioner married a Christian and the petitioner’s children have been recognised as members of the community to which the petitioner’s husband belongs, the community certificate issued in favour of the petitioner has been cancelled,” the court 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 the 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 court order read.
The Court went on to quash the cancellation of the petitioner’s community certificate, terming it arbitrary and based on surmises and conjectures without any material fact in support. The court also directed the authorities to restore the community certificate of the petitioner with immediate effect.