Case Number 

Appeal (crl.) 240 of 1997

Equivalent Citation

2004 (1) SCR 1155



Decided On


Relevant Act/ Section

The Indian Penal Code – Section 509

The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (in short 1989 Act) – Section 3(i)(xi)

The Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) – Section 482

Article 341 & Article 342 of The Indian Constitution

The Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950

The Constitution (Scheduled Castes)[(Union Territories)] Order, 1951

Brief Facts and Procedural History 

The President of the Pattambi Congress Mandlam, Ramachandran, lodged an FIR against the respondent under Section 509 of the IPC. The respondent took Elizabeth P. Kora, an 8-year-old girl, to a classroom in the Pattambi Government U.P. School with an intention to outrage the modesty. The father of the victim belonged to the Mala Aryan Community (Scheduled Tribe in Kerala), so another FIR was filed under Section 3(i)(xi) of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. The Chief Judicial Magistrate summoned the respondent based on the charges. Aggrieved respondent under Section 482 of CrPC filed a petition asking to quash the charges framed under Section 3(i)(xi).

The High Court held that the victim ceased to be a member of the Scheduled Tribe as her parents have converted to Christianity. The High Court repressed the charges under Section 3(i)(xi).

Issues Before the Court

Whether the person continues to be a member of a Scheduled Castes and Tribes after he embraces another religion?

Ratio of the Case

The appellant had shown through circulars issued by the State of Kerala that despite converting into other religions, tribes treated their members in the same way as they did before. An argument has been made that the victim’s family does not fall in the category of the Scheduled Tribes, as they are embracing Christianity for 200 years. The caste system is a feature of Hindu society and, if a person renounces Hinduism, he also ceases to be a member of the caste.

The Madras High Court held that a person professing a religion other than Hinduism could be a member of a caste. It is possible where a caste is not based on religion but on economic and occupational characteristics. In South India, some caste accepts a person being a member of a caste even after conversion.  

The Andhra Pradesh High Court held that the person could be governed by a different law than the law governing his community. However, this does not cease him to be a member of the caste he belongs.

Decision of the Court

The Court held that as a broad proposition of law, it cannot be accepted that a person ceases to be a member of the Scheduled Tribes merely by conversion into another religion. The facts of the cases can determine whether the person ceases to be a member of the Scheduled Tribes. The court needs to see whether the person who changed his religion continues to suffer from a social disability. And if he follows the rules, customs, and the tradition of the community he belonged to? 

This Case Analysis is written by Gracy Singh, a student of 2nd Year BA.LLB (Hons.) from Mody University of Science and Technology, Lakshmangarh, Rajasthan.



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