Caste is Determined by Birth or Marriage? Read SC’s Verdict on this

January 21, 2018

In a landmark judgment, pronounced by the Supreme Court on January 19 in the case of Sunita Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh (read the case here), the Bench has held that a person’s caste is determined by birth and the same cannot be changed by marriage. passed against the appellant, is called in question in this appeal.

In the case, the Appellant was born in “Agarwal”(general caste category) family and married to a person belonging to Schedule caste (Jatav). Post marriage she obtained caste certificate and based on the academic qualifications and the caste certificate, she was appointed as a Post Graduate Teacher at Kendriya Vidyalaya and served the institution for 21 years.

Later a complaint was lodged against the appellant that she was born in “Agarwal” family and after her marriage with a person of scheduled caste, she obtained a caste certificate in question. After making preliminary verification, the jurisdictional officer directed to conduct an enquiry in respect of the caste certificate of the appellant and subsequently her caste certificate was cancelled which also eventually led to termination from service.

The aggrieved appellant approached the relevant authorities which dismissed her appeal. Subsequently she appealed with the High Court of Allahabad which also confirmed the order of termination from service.

Aggrieved by the High Court’s order, the Appellant approached the Supreme Court.

Bench’s Verdict

The Supreme Court Bench in the case categorically stated that an individual’s caste is determined by birth and cannot be changed by marriage. Other noteworthy observations made by the Bench are as under:

  • That there cannot be any dispute that the caste is determined by birth and the caste cannot be changed by marriage with a person of scheduled caste. Undoubtedly, the appellant was born in “Agarwal” family, which falls in general category and not in scheduled caste. Merely because her husband is belonging to a scheduled caste category, the appellant should not have been issued with a caste certificate showing her caste as scheduled caste.
  • In view of the fact and circumstances of the instant case and observing that the appellant has already served as a Teacher and Vice-Principal of Kendriya Vidyalaya without any black spot in her service career for about 21 years, and that she is going to retire shortly, the Court ordered to convert order of termination to an order of compulsory retirement.


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Shilpi Sharan

- Shilpi Sharan is the Editor at - an Advocate with extensive knowledge in myriad fields of Law. She has a flair of writing and has legal publications in national and international law magazines to her credit. She focuses on legal research and aims at raising public awareness of laws in India.