ST claim must be confirmed from anthro data: SC

'Broad parameters could be kept in view in considering the caste claims'

A bench of Justices D K Jain and A K Ganguly said, even though no absolute rule for testing the caste claim can be made, preference could be given to pre-independence documents as well as an affinity test to verify the claim.

“The genuineness of a caste claim has to be considered not only on a thorough examination of the documents submitted in support of the claim but also an affinity test, which would include anthropological and ethnological traits etc., of the applicant. However, it is neither feasible nor desirable to lay down an absolute rule, which could be applied mechanically to examine a caste claim,” the court said.
Nevertheless, the bench said some broad parameters could be kept in view in considering the caste claims.

“While dealing with documentary evidence, greater reliance may be placed on pre- Independence documents because they furnish a higher degree of probative value to the declaration of status of a caste, as compared to post-Independence documents.”

The bench also said that using the affinity test, which included focusing on the ethnological connections with the scheduled tribe, a cautious approach has to be adopted.

“A few decades ago, when the tribes were somewhat immune to the cultural development happening around them, the affinity test could serve as a determinative factor. However, with migrations, modernisation and contact with other communities, these communities tend to develop and adopt new traits, which may not essentially match with the traditional characteristics of the tribe,” the bench said.

Allows appeal
The apex court streamlined the parameters while allowing an appeal filed by Anand, a probationary field officer of Maharashtra Pollution Control Board, against the state government's decision to terminate his services on the ground that his tribal status was not valid.

The Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court had in 2004 affirmed the order passed by the Committee for Scrutiny and Verification of Tribe Claims, Amravati cancelling the caste certificate issued to him by the Sub-Divisional Magistrate in district Yavatmal, certifying him to be belonging to ‘Halbi’ Scheduled tribe, notified in terms of the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950.

After examining, the apex court referred the matter back to the caste scrutiny committee for fresh consideration.

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