Caste Committees issuing certificates without enquiry: HC

Caste Committees issuing certificates without enquiry: HC

The Bombay High Court has pulled up the caste scrutiny committees in Maharashtra for issuing caste validity certificates to applicants without holding any enquiry or recording any reasons.

In most of such cases, the orders have been passed on the eve of the municipal elections of 2011-2012, noted Justices Abhay Oak and A R Joshi in a recent order.
"In fact, this court has observed that in one or two cases the state government has itself challenged the similar orders of the Scrutiny Committee," said the judges while asking the Advocate General Darius Khambata to appear in the matter and assist the court.

Apart from the fact that said illegality has been noticed in large number of cases, as a result of such approach of the Caste Scrutiny Committees, the persons who genuinely belong to reserved category may have suffered, the court observed.
The Advocate General assured the court that he would look into the matter.
Hearing a petition, the bench quashed and set aside the caste validity certificate dated January 19, 2011 issued to Jyotsna Harjivan Parmar and assigned the matter of her caste verification to another Caste Scrutiny Committee for fresh consideration.

The court was hearing the petition filed by Suman Ashok Kadar challenging the caste validity certificate issued to Jyotsna.

On the last occasion, the judges had called upon the Assistant Government Pleader to produce the record of the Caste Scrutiny Committee. "Perusal of the record shows that there is no enquiry conducted by the Caste Scrutiny Committee. There is no reasoned order passed by the Caste Scrutiny Committee", noted the judges.
The court directed the petitioner and the respondent to appear before the Divisional Caste Scrutiny Committee in suburban Bandra within three weeks for fixing the schedule of the hearing.

The court further asked the Caste Scrutiny Committee to make a fresh adjudication on the caste claim of the respondent Jyotsna and pass an order in the light of the observations made in the judgment within a period of four months from their appearance.

The court said that it will be open for the petitioner and the respondent to file fresh documents. However, they made it clear that they have not made adjudication on the merits of the caste claim.

"Though we are disposing of the petition on above terms, to enable the learned Advocate General to take instructions and to make appropriate statement, we adjourn the petition to June 27, 2013," the bench observed.

The court noted that the caste validity certificate granted by the Caste Scrutiny Committee had upheld the caste claim of the respondent that she belongs to the "Hindu Kumbhar" caste.

The bench remarked that the certificate has been ordered to be granted on the basis of a cryptic order running into six lines which is recorded in the Roznama. "It merely records that the vigilance Cell has submitted a report in favour of the respondent and on the basis of the documents, the caste claim is valid."

Perusal of the record shows that there is no application of mind by the Caste Scrutiny Committee which has not even made a reference to the documents produced on record by the respondent, the judges noted.

It is not necessary to record detailed reasons for coming to the conclusion that the Caste Scrutiny Committee is under an obligation to hold an enquiry and to record the reasons for its conclusions, the judges noted.

"In the present case, perusal of the record shows that no enquiry has been conducted by the Caste Scrutiny Committee. There is no application of mind and by a cryptic order the caste claim of the respondent has been upheld. Only on this ground, the impugned order deserves to be quashed and set aside", the Judges further observed.

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