K.G. Balakrishnan Commission

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    • Recently, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment stated that the government is fully committed to providing all the facilities to enable the Balakrishnan Commission to function effectively.

    About K.G. Balakrishnan Commission 

    • The Union government has notified a Commission in 2022 under the former Chief Justice of India and former chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) K G Balakrishnan .
    • The three-member Commission will also comprise retired IAS officer Dr. Ravindra Kumar Jain and University Grants Commission member Prof Sushma Yadav.
    • It will submit its report within two years.

    Purpose 

    • To examine the issue of whether Scheduled Caste (SC) status can be accorded to Dalits who have over the years converted to religions other than Sikhism or Buddhism.  
    • The commission’s inquiry will also look into the changes an SC person goes through after converting to another religion and its implications on the question of including them as SCs. 
    • These will include examining their traditions, customs, social and other forms of discrimination, and how and whether they have changed as a result of the conversion.  
    • The commission has also been empowered to examine any other related questions that it deemed appropriate, in consultation with and with the consent of the Central government.

    Present Status 

    • Currently, the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950 provides for only those belonging to Hindu, Sikh, or Buddhist communities to be categorised as SCs. 
    • When enacted, the Order only allowed for Hindu communities to be classified as SCs based on the social disabilities and discrimination they faced due to untouchability. 
      • It was amended in 1956 to include Sikh communities and again in 1990 to include Buddhist communities as SCs. 

    Other Efforts have been made to include Muslims and Christians of Dalit origin among SCs

    • After 1990, a number of Private Member Bills were brought in Parliament for this purpose.
    •  In 1996, a government Bill called The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Orders (Amendment) Bill was drafted, but in view of a divergence of opinions, the Bill was not introduced in Parliament.
    • The UPA government headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh set up two important panels: 
      • the National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities, popularly known as the Ranganath Misra Commission, in October 2004
        • It  submitted its report in 2007, recommended that SC status should be “completely de-linked from religion and Scheduled Castes [should be made] fully religion-neutral like Scheduled Tribes.
      • a seven-member high-level committee headed by former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court Rajinder Sachar to study the social, economic, and educational condition of Muslims in March 2005.
        • The Sachar Commission Report observed that the social and economic situation of Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians did not improve after conversion. 
    • The National Commission for Scheduled Castes and the National Commission for Minorities had also recommended providing SC status to Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians in affidavits filed before the Supreme Court in 2011.

    Future Outlook 

    • This is a seminal and historically complex sociological and constitutional question, and a definite matter of public importance given its importance, sensitivity, and potential impact, any change in definition in this regard should be on the basis of a detailed and definitive study and extensive consultation with all stakeholders and no commission under the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952 (60 of 1952) has so far inquired into the matter.”

    Do you Know?

    • The rationale behind giving reservations to Scheduled Castes was that these sections had suffered from the social evil of untouchability, which was practiced among Hindus
      • Under Article 341 of the Constitution, the President may “specify the castes, races or tribes or parts of or groups within castes, races or tribes which shall be deemed to be Scheduled Castes”.
    • Religion-based bar does not apply to converted STs and OBC
      • The rights of a person belonging to a Scheduled Tribe are independent of his/her religious faith.”
      • Following the implementation of the Mandal Commission report, several Christian and Muslim communities have found a place in the Central and state lists of OBCs.

    Source: TH