Affinity Test & Caste Claims

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    • The Supreme Court has recently held in a judgment that an affinity test cannot be the litmus test to decide a caste claim.

    More about the news

    • Supreme Court’s judgment:
      • A three-judge Bench was settling conflicting views on the value of affinity tests to prove caste/tribe claims.
      • It stated that an affinity test is not an essential part of the process of the determination of the correctness of a caste or tribe claim in every case.

    Caste Claim

    • Any person who claims to belong to a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe or Other Backward Class has to produce a certificate to the Appointing Authority/Selection Committee/Board etc. in support of his claim so as to make him eligible for reservation and various relaxations and concessions.
    • The Caste/Tribe/Community certificate issued by the appointing authorities in the prescribed form for SCs/STs and for OBCs is only accepted as proof in support of a candidate’s claim as belonging to the Scheduled Caste or the Scheduled Tribe or the Other Backward Class. 

    About the affinity test:

    • An affinity test mandates the study and preparation of a report by authorities on caste/tribe claims based on the peculiar anthropological and ethnological traits, deities, rituals, customs, mode of marriage, death ceremonies, methods of burial of dead bodies, etc, of the particular caste or tribe and the applicants knowledge of them.
      • But the court said that an “affinity test can never be conclusive” to prove a caste/tribe claim.
    • Conflicting views:
      • One view held that: 
        • If a candidate failed the affinity test at any stage, a caste validity certificate cannot be granted to him.
      • The second view was that: 
        • The affinity test was not the only criterion for deciding a caste claim based on a caste certificate issued by a competent authority. 
      • It was held that the affinity test could be used only as a means to corroborate the documentary evidence.
    • Reason:
      • The bench reasoned that if the applicant has stayed in bigger urban areas along with his family for decades or if his family has stayed in such urban areas for decades, the applicant may not have knowledge of the facts.
      • In some cases, even the parents of the applicants would be unaware of intrinsic tribal or caste traits for the reason that for several years they have been staying in bigger urban areas.

    About the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) 

    • About:
      • The Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) are officially designated groups of people and among the most disadvantaged socio-economic groups in India. 
        • The terms are also recognized in the Constitution of India.
    • Pre-independence recognition:
      • Since the 1850s, these communities were loosely referred to as Depressed Classes, with the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
      • The early 20th century saw a flurry of activity in the British authorities assessing the feasibility of responsible self-government for India. 
        • The Morley–Minto Reforms Report, Montagu–Chelmsford Reforms Report and the Simon Commission were several initiatives in this context. 
        • The Government of India Act 1935 introduced the term “Scheduled Castes”.
    • Post-independence Constitutional validation:
      • These communities came to be known as Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes by Clause 1 of Articles 341 and 342 of the Constitution respectively. 
      • Establishment of the National Commissions:
        • Followed by this, Articles 338, and 338-A of the Constitution of India lays down the provision for the establishment of the National Commission for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes respectively.

    Provisions safeguarding the rights of SCs and Sts in India

    • The Indian Government has enacted laws to remove negative discrimination and has also brought in many reforms to improve the quality of life for the weaker sections of society. Few among them are:
      • Constitutionally guaranteed fundamental human rights
      • Abolition of ‘untouchability’ in 1950
      • Provision of reservations in places like educational institutions, for employment opportunities etc.
      • Establishing social welfare departments and national commissions for the welfare of scheduled castes and tribes.
    • Right to Equality 
      • Articles 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18 of the Constitution of India highlight the Right to Equality in detail. 
      • It refers to equality in the eyes of law, discarding any unfairness on grounds of caste, race, religion, place of birth sex
      • It also includes equality of prospects in matters of employment, abolition of untouchability and abolition of titles.

    Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act

    • Induction:
      • In 1989, the Government of India enacted the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act in order to prevent atrocities against SC/STs. 
      • The purpose of the Act was to prevent atrocities and help in the social inclusion of Dalits into society. 
    • Aim:
      • This legislation aims at preventing the commission of offences by persons other than Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. 
    • Offender:
      • Any person who is not a member of a scheduled caste or a scheduled tribe and commits an offence listed in the Act against a member of a scheduled caste or a scheduled tribe is an offender.
    • Cognizable offence:
      • All offences listed in the Act are cognizable. 
      • The police can arrest the offender without a warrant and start an investigation into the case without taking any orders from the court.
    • Punishments:
      • The Act prescribes both minimum as well as maximum punishment
        • The minimum in most cases is six months imprisonment while the maximum is five years sentence and with a fine. 
      • In some cases, the minimum is enhanced to one year while the maximum goes up to life imprisonment or even death sentence.

    Source: TH