Karnataka caste verification panel to check MLA's claim

Karnataka's special caste verification panel to examine former Mulbagal MLA G Manjunath's claim, says SC

The Karnataka HC had on April 25, 2018, disqualified Manjunath, then independent MLA from SC-reserved constituency from Kolar district in 2013, on charges of furnishing an illegal caste certificate.

The Supreme Court has directed the Karnataka government's caste verification committee to examine if former Mulbagal MLA G Manjunath belonged to the Scheduled Caste, known as ‘Budaga Jangama’, or the ‘Bairagi’ caste recognised as Other Backward Classes in the state.

The Karnataka HC had on April 25, 2018, disqualified Manjunath, then independent MLA from SC-reserved constituency from Kolar district in 2013, on charges of furnishing an illegal caste certificate.

Hearing his appeal, a bench of Chief Justice S A Bobde, B R Gavai and Surya Kant noted the issue involved in the matter was a “complex” one.

“The complexity arises from the facts of the occupation, habits, rituals, customs and deities of the two castes. One complexity arises from the fact that the Kolar Gazetteer states that the persons belonging to ‘Budaga Jangama’ caste are also known by names such as ‘Mala Sanyasi’, ‘Bairagi’, etc, in different parts of the state.” the bench said.

On this, the court was informed that there was a specialised committee, set up by the state to determine various caste claims made for purposes such as employment and admissions to the educational institutions.

Hence, the court decided to send the case related the caste claim of Manjunath to the committee, using its power under Article 142 to do complete justice. It gave the committee three months' time to determine his caste after hearing the parties and permitting them to furnish oral and documentary evidence.

“The enquiry shall be conducted by the committee according to the Karnataka SC/ST & Other BC (Reservation of Appointments, Etc.) Act, 1990,” it said, putting the matter for consideration after three and a half months.

Background:

The top court had in April, 2019 stayed the order issued for recovery of over Rs 90 lakh disbursed as salary and other perks to Manjunath. It had stayed the operation of the communication of February 13, 2019 passed by the Under Secretary, Karnataka Legislative Assembly for "the time being".

N Munianjappa, who was represented by advocate Sanjay M Nuli, had fought unsuccessfully on a JD(S) ticket, and was the first runner up. Munianjappa filed an election petition before the High Court contending that the certificate issued to Manjunatha on April 12, 2008 stating that he belonged to Budaga Jangama (SC) caste had no legal basis. He claimed the MLA was of Bairagi caste which was an OBC.

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