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Saturday, January 29, 2005

Child will inherit only father's caste: court

The Supreme Court today upheld a judgment of the Andhra Pradesh High Court that a child born out of wedlock would inherit only his/her father's caste irrespective of the caste to which the mother belonged.

The High Court had also held that the child would not be entitled to the benefits reserved for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes if the biological father belonged to a forward community and the mother to a backward community.

A three-judge Bench, comprising the Chief Justice R.C. Lahoti, Justice G.P. Mathur and Justice P.K. Balasubramanyan, thereby dismissed a special leave petition filed by the former Telugu Desam MLA, Shobha Hymavathi Devi, against the High Court judgment setting aside her 1999 election from Sringavarapukota in Vizianagaram district, a Scheduled Tribes reserved constituency.

The defeated candidates challenged Shobha's election on the ground that she did not belong to the Bagatha community, which had been notified as a Scheduled Tribes community. It was contended that though her mother belonged to the Bagatha community, her biological father was Murari Rao, who belonged to a forward caste and that she would acquire only the caste of her father and not that of her mother.

However, Shobha contended that she belonged to the Bagatha community as she was also married to a person belonging to that community. But the High Court quashed the election holding that she could not claim the benefits reserved for STs though her mother belonged to it.

In her appeal, Ms. Shobha contended that her mother had married Laddu Appala Swamy who belonged to the Bagatha community. But later due to differences with Mr. Swamy, she returned to her parental home, where she developed intimacy with Mr. Rao.

Since Mr. Rao had not married her mother, it could not be said that she inherited her biological father's community and that she would continue to inherit her mother's caste only. She produced the ST certificate given by the District Collector who, after conducting a thorough inquiry, had come to the conclusion that she belonged to the Bagatha community. The Supreme Court agreed with the findings of the High Court and dismissed the appeal.

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