08 Jun 2121

Caste scrutiny committee should apply mind judiciously before issuing Caste Validation Certificate - Bombay High Court

Case : Ananda Vithoba Adsul v. State of Maharashtra & Ors. Writ Petition no. 3370 of 2018 With Writ Petition No. 2675 of 2019

Court : Bombay High Court

Bench : Justice R. D. Dhanuka & Justice V. G. Bisht

Decided on : 08 Jun 2121

Relevant Statutes

Sections 7 and 10 of the Caste Certificate Act, 2000

Rules 5, 8, 13, 17 and 18 of Caste Certificate Rules, 2012.

Brief Facts and Procedural History

1. Petitioner, belonging to Hindu-Chambhar caste, recognized as Scheduled Caste, contested Parliamentary election from Amravati Constituency, which is reserved for scheduled caste, he was elected as Member of Parliament in the year 1996 and again in the year 1999, 2004, and 2014. Petitioner in the present petition alleged that  respondent-3, to contest Parliamentary election from Amravati constituency, started taking steps to fight election with the help of false and fabricated documents.

2. Petitioner alleged that respondent took all the necessary steps to get a false certificate relating to caste validity and in that, father of respondent-3 helped to get all the documents fraudulently and finally respondent-3 submitted various documents in support of her claim as belonging to Mochi caste under the Scheduled Caste.

3. Petitioner alleged that Respondent 2, District Caste Certificate Scrutiny Committee without verifying the documents submitted by Respondent 3 passed an order while getting the claim for the caste, and petitioner alleges that this certificate was obtained under the influence of the husband of Respondent 3 who was a member of the legislative assembly. 

4. The complaint was filed before Respondent 2, District Caste Certificate Scrutiny Committee for cancelling the caste validity certificate issued to respondent 3, and complainants also relied on the educational officer’s letter which states that the school in which the father of respondent 3 was said to have studied was not in existence at the time of issuance of certificate which was supported by the report submitted by vigilance cell which clearly mentions that those certificates were forged and fabricated. 

5. In the year 2015 Mr. Raju Mankar filed a civil writ petition before this court challenging the grant of caste validity certificate in which the court directed respondent 2, District Caste Certificate Scrutiny Committee to once again hear both the parties and in that matter respondent 2, District Caste Certificate Scrutiny Committee accepted the caste claim of respondent 3 based on two documents:

a. Bonafide certificate issued by Khalsa College of Arts, Science and Commerce.

b. Rent agreement which corroborates proof of residence appearing under the Khalsa college register

The Issues of the Case

Whether the Caste Certificate issued by the District Caste Certificate Scrutiny Committee declaring Respondent 3 a member of the 'Mochi’ caste valid?

Whether due power is exercised by District Caste Certificate Scrutiny Committee before issuing the Caste certificate concerning the documents produced by Respondent 3?

The Observations of the Court

1. The Honourable Bombay High Court after hearing arguments from both sides, started the observation by referring to the provisions of Caste Certificate Act, 2000 and Cast Certificate Rules, 2012 and noted that in the present matter Respondent 3 applied for obtaining caste certificate in the year 2013 but before that the father of respondent 3 had filed for caste certificate in 2012 to Gram Panchayat, Ganja, Palghar district for including his name in the birth register for which the executive magistrate of Palghar allowed his application but was later cancelled due to public pressure in the year 2013 and his place of birth was mentioned as Khokhara, Punjab in the passport.

2. Regarding the Ration Card produced in the court, in which the name of the mother of respondent 3 was changed from “Rajinder Kaur” to “Rajinder Kaur HarbanSingh  Kudles – Mochi” against which council for petitioner rightly pointed out that caste is not required to be mentioned in the ration card under any of the provisions of law and this amendment was done to fabricate the record and grant benefit to respondent 3.

3. The Father of respondent3 also applied for a caste certificate by submitting his school-leaving certificate which is rejected on the ground that the caste certificate was issued from the government of Punjab.

4. Petitioner submitted that Kartika High School, Kurla furnished the copy which mentions caste and religion of respondent 3 as “Sikh” in the original birth certificate and did not mention caste as “Mochi”. Some additional certificates were filed by respondent 3 like pedigree certificate issued by Tehsil of Punjab for which Vigilance Officer mentioned that when some native persons at the place of respondent 3 were enquired, they mentioned that respondent 3 belonged to “Ravidasiya Mochi” which are not included in the list of Scheduled Caste under Article 341 of the Constitution of India.

5. Moving on to the alleged rent agreement of the grandfather of respondent 3, the vigilance officer mentioned that due to insufficient address and name of the building nobody could inform about the said address, and the School Leaving Certificate showing caste “Mochi” by Municipal Primary School was not assured by the said school.

6. Police vigilance cell also visited Kokhara, Punjab, and enquired about the evidentiary documents submitted by respondent 3 and Sarpanch of the village told him that the certificate in Punjabi and English were not issued by him and signature were not of him and in addition to all these facts, he also told that in his village no member Mochi caste was living and the event didn't know about Mochi community.

7. The Honourable Bombay High Court referred to Rule 18(12) of the Caste Certificate Rules, 2012 which mentioned that the applicant must disclose all the true information including adverse entries, and if not then it will be lawful for the scrutiny committee to draw an adverse inference and  Rule 18(16) of the Caste Certificate Rules, 2012 which mentions that scrutiny committee has the power to appreciate the statement of the applicant in the form of an affidavit which must be in consonance with Order XVIII Rule 14 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 about the genuineness of the caste claim of the applicant without inquiring by the vigilance cell. Therefore, Respondent 2, District Caste Certificate Scrutiny Committee was satisfied in the earlier petition that the certificate was based on fraudulent and fabricated documents but still ignored the objection raised by the vigilance cell.

8. The Honourable Bombay High Court is of the view that is Respondent 2, District Caste Certificate Scrutiny Committee should have carried out investigation independently before issuing the caste validity certificate. Supreme Court referred to its previous judgment of Kumari Madhuri Patel v. Additional Commissioner, (1994) 6 SCC 241, in which it was mentioned that issuance of caste certificate is not a casual exercise and should be done by scrutiny committee with the proper assistance of vigilance cell and also referred to the case of Madhuri Patel v. Commissioner, Tribal Development, (1994) 6 SCC 241, in which Supreme Court issued various guidelines to be followed by caste scrutiny committee before issuing caste claim certificate.

9. The Honourable Bombay High Court also referred to the judgment of Dayaram v. Sudhir Batham and Ors, (2012) 1 SCC 333, in which the Supreme Court has mentioned that each scrutiny committee has a vigilance cell, the function of which is to investigate and scrutiny committee is not an adjudicating authority like court or tribunal but only an administrative body which verify the facts and ascertain whether the caste statues claim is correct or not.

10. The Honourable Bombay High Court further referred to the judgment of Supreme Court in District Collector, Satara v. Mangesh & Anr. V. Mangesh Nivrutti Kashid, (2019) 10 SCC 166, Rajeshwar Baburao Bone v. State of Maharashtra and Ors., (2015) 14 SCC 497, Devidas Baburao Hajare & Anr. V. State of Maharashtra, 1987 Mh. L.J. 801, and by referring to these judgments court looked into the repercussions of issuing caste certificates based on fake documents and noted down that it can give rise to a vast area of malpractice as non-entitled person managed to obtain such certificates for availing the benefits as the validity of the certificate is not only valid for that election but also for subsequent elections and in the event of the occurrence of such fraud the scrutiny committee can recall its earlier order even in the absence of specific provisions enabling the Committee to exercise the power of review.

11. The Honourable Bombay High Court held that for issuance of caste certificate the totality of evidence should convince the authorities that a particular applicant belongs or does not belong to a certain caste and refer to the judgment of Punit Rai v. Dinesh Choudhary, (2003) 8 SCC 204, wherein the court held that question whether a person belongs to particular cast or not is to be determined by the statutory authorities and if a person is not belonging to Scheduled caste and if claims himself to be so then he would be committing a fraud on the Constitution.

12. The Honourable Bombay High Court while dealing with the judgment which is relied upon by the parties especially on the allegation made by respondents 3 that record of the cast in the documents was as “Sikh Chamar” which is included in the list of caste at serial number 11 for which High Court pointed out that caste “Chamar” is included at serial number 11 which does not include “Sikh Chamar” and for that court referred to the judgment of State of Maharashtra v. KeshaoVishwanath Sonone, 2012 (1) SCC 566, in which court has pointed out that court should not have looked into the question and decide that the tribe “Gowari” is the part of Scheduled tribe “Gond Gowari”, which is included in the Constitution of India. Therefore, the Honourable Bombay High Court is of the view that the term "Chamar” and “Sikh Chamar” are not the same and not even synonymous with Mochi as described under Entry 11 to Schedule 2 of the Constitution of India.

13. The Honourable Bombay High Court is of the view that there was no case between Respondents and Petitioner before Respondent 2, District Caste Certificate Scrutiny Committee and Respondent 2, District Caste Certificate Scrutiny Committee should not have discarded the objection raised by vigilance cell and Respondent 2, District Caste Certificate Scrutiny Committee has failed in its mandatory duty to find out the truth before allowing the caste claim.

14. Respondent 3 relied upon the entire fabricated and fraudulent document and the other two documents (which were accepted by the Scrutiny committee) are also ex facie fabricated and fraudulent.

15. Under Section 7 of the Caste Certificate Act, 2000, it is the mandatory duty of the Caste scrutiny committee to cancel and confiscate caste certificate and after an inquiry into the correctness certificate if the committee thinks that the certificate is obtained fraudulently by a person with whom does not belong to Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe, Nomadic Tribe, Other Backward Classes, Special Backward Classes.

16. In the present case, the scrutiny committee did not cancel or confiscate the said false certificate which was obtained by respondent 3 and therefore the committee has failed to comply with the mandatory duty imposed upon by Section 7 of Caste Certificate Act, 2000 and for that High Court referred to the judgment of Nutan Vidarbha Sikshan Mandal v. Presiding Officer, School Tribunal, Amravati, 2007(2) Mh.L.J. 440, in which court has elaborated upon the power and duties Scrutiny Committee to cancel, forfeit and confiscate a caste certificate obtained fraudulently by the party and it would be communicated to the educational institution or the appointing authority with a request to cancel the admission or appointment.

17. Finally, The Honourable Bombay High Court ended by reminding the Caste scrutiny committee about its power of validating a caste certificate and should be more cautious before issuing the caste certificate to any party.

Decision Held by the Court

1. The order passed by respondent 2, District Caste Certificate Scrutiny Committee issuing caste claim certificate is set aside.

2. Respondent 3 is directed to surrender the caste certificate issued by respondent 2, District Caste Certificate Scrutiny Committee.

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