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Tuesday, 7 March, 2000, 16:08 GMT
Court rules out caste differences
Street scene in India
Supreme Court says no biological difference between castes
By Jyotsna Singh in Delhi

The Indian Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by a DNA scientist who tried to sue his parents-in-law on the grounds that they lured him into marrying their daughter by alleging that they came from a high-caste family.

In what is being seen by commentators as an important ruling, the Supreme Court said that there is no biological difference between Hindu castes.

The ruling provides judicial backing to the Indian constitution which says that people should not be discriminated against because of their caste.

The ruling - one of the first of its kind - came in response to a petition filed by DNA scientist GV Rao.

Deceived

He maintained that he had been deceived into marrying his wife by her parents who he said had misrepresented themselves as members of the high-caste Thurupukapu community.

Mr Rao says that they actually belong to a low-caste family.

In its judgement, the supreme court criticised Mr Rao for mixing caste with marriage.

It said that as a DNA scientist, Mr Ro could reasonably be presumed to be aware of what it called the bio-diversity at the cellular and molecular level among human beings.

The court ruled that caste does not play any role in the field of human bio-technology.

It said that marriage is a sacred ceremony, the main purpose of which is to enable young people to settle down and live peacefully.

Judges D P Wadhwa and Saghir Ahmed also expressed concern over growing matrimonial disputes in recent times.

It now looks as if all legal avenues have been exhausted for Mr Rao, a senior scientist at the DNA finger printing and Diagnostics Institute in Hyderabad.

He got married six years ago after his wife's family responded to an advertisement for marriage that he had put out in a reputed regional newspaper.

Upset

Mr Rao complained that he was upset to learn three years after their marriage that his wife actually came from a low caste tribal community: he said that he decided to sue her family for lying to him.

The Indian Constitution does not recognise the existence of castes except in cases of positive discrimination in favour of some low and oppressed communities that have been classified as scheduled caste and scheduled tribes.

People in these categories enjoy some job-related benefits.

Observers say Mr Rao's case highlights the fact that caste-based divisions remain deeply rooted among a large section of Indian society.
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