Couple claim wrongful dismissal in UK's first 'caste bias' battle


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The Independent Online

An Indian couple who met at a UK law firm where they both worked are claiming wrongful dismissal because of discrimination by caste.

In the first case of its kind in the UK, the couple claim that the Coventry-based law firm Heer Manak Solicitors treated them differently after they married because they are from different castes.

Amardeep Begraj, 33, a former solicitor at the firm, hails from the higher caste of Jat, whereas her husband Vijay Begraj, 32, the former practice manager, belongs to the Dalits, also known as the 'untouchables'.

Ms Begraj told an employment tribunal in Birmingham that a senior colleague warned her against marrying Mr Begraj on the grounds that people of his caste were 'different creatures' and that his position in the firm was 'compromised'.

According to a report in The Times, Ms Begraj said she felt worried after hearing that her boss was involved in a gang that forced girls out of such relationships.

The partner in the law practice, Robin Heer allegedly once told her that he knew people who could do kneecappings.

Mrs Begraj said that her husband was told that Mr Heer would disapprove of their relationship because he had been involved in a gang that returned Jat girls in inter-caste relationships to their parents.

Andrew Marshall, acting for Heer Manak, said that Mr Heer denied the allegation.

Mrs Begraj was asked why the couple invited to their wedding all the senior lawyers against whom they were now claiming discrimination. She told the tribunal that she did not want to antagonise their bosses by not inviting them when other work colleagues had been invited.

The case comes as Home Secretary Theresa May considers whether to amend British equality law to include protection to those discriminated by caste.

Mr Begraj, who worked for the firm for seven years, was fired last year. His wife resigned in January.

The tribunal continues.