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The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court has directed the Ramanathapuram district authorities to restore at once the community certificate originally issued to a Hindu Pallan woman who was married to a Christian.

The court said the cancellation of the community certificate showed “…a degree of narrow-mindedness that the Constitution does not encourage”. Nothing might be presumed upon a member of a particular community respecting another community or another religion; indeed, that is the constitutional mandate and not otherwise, observed a Division Bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice M. Duraiswamy.

The certificate was cancelled merely because the woman, a doctor, married a Christian, and their children were recognised as members of the community of her husband.

The judges observed that there was no doubt that the petitioner belonged to the Hindu Pallan community, and there was no dispute that she was born to Hindu Pallan parents.

In the counter-affidavit, the authorities said they had visited the clinic of the petitioner and found a ‘Cross’ hanging on the wall. The officials assumed that she had converted to Christianity, and this resulted in the cancellation of the certificate. The judges observed that the specious excuses offered by the officials could not be accepted. There was no suggestion in the affidavit that the petitioner had abandoned her faith or she had embraced Christianity.

It is equally possible that the petitioner, as part of a family, might accompany her husband and children to Sunday matins. But the mere fact that a person goes to church does not mean such a person has abandoned the original faith.

Taking into account the fact that the action appeared to be arbitrary and based on surmises and conjectures without any material fact, the court set aside the order passed by the Ramanathapuram Collector in 2013.

The scrutiny committee would do well to approach the matter with a broader mind than what was evident in the present case, the judges observed. The court allowed the petition filed by the woman in 2016.