Bombay High Court in its judgment dated June 8, 2021, cancelled the caste certificate of Lok Sabha Member from Amravati, Ms. Navneet Kaur Rana, holding that she obtained the same fraudulently by producing fabricated documents.
Court added that Caste Scrutiny Committee, which is expected to show high degree of circumspection, seemed to be swayed by extenuating circumstances, keeping aside the application of judicious mind.
Directions have been issued to the Respondent candidate to surrender the caste certificate within 6 weeks from the said order.
A Division Bench of Justice VG Bisht and Justice RD Dhanuka, while imposing a cost of Rs 200000 upon the respondent, payable to the Maharashtra Legal Services Authority, observed,
“In our view the caste claim made by the respondent no.3 for obtaining a caste certificate as schedule caste itself was fraudulent and was made with intention to obtain various benefits available to a candidate from such schedule caste category knowingly well that she does not belong to that caste. The application thus itself was made intentionally to make a fraudulent claim to enable the respondent no.3 to contest an election for Member of Parliament on the seat reserved for a scheduled caste candidate.”
Reliance was placed on State of Tamil Nadu v. A. Guruswamy, AIR 1997 SC 1199, Lilly Kutty v. Scrutiny Committee, AIR 2005 SC 4313.
“Since the respondent no.3 has obtained the caste certificate fraudulently and got the said caste certificate validated fraudulently from Caste Scrutiny Committee by producing fabricated and fraudulent documents, such caste certificate is cancelled and stands confiscated. It is needless to observe that all the consequences in law provided upon cancellation of such fraudulently obtained caste certificate and caste validity certificate shall follow”, the bench conclusively said.
Caste Certificate of Respondent 3, Navneet Kaur (Independent MP from Amravati), under Caste Certificate Act, 2000 and Caste Certificate Rules, 2012, was in question.
Respondent 3 submitted an application for obtaining the caste certificate on August 26, 2013 claiming to be of Scheduled Caste Category (“Mochi”)
A caste certificate from the office of Deputy Collector, Mumbai was obtained on August 30, 2013.
Prior to the date of the respondent submitting an application for issuance of caste validity certificate, her father applied for caste certificate on July 2, 2012 to Gram Panchayat, Ganja Dhekale, Taluka Palghar, by including his name in the Birth Register maintained by the said Gram Panchayat.
He had also filed an affidavit on July 10, 2012 mentioning that his birth took place in the said village on April 17, 1949.
Executive Magistrate, Palghar passed an order on August 6, 2012 to include the name of the father of the respondent - Harbhansingh Ramsingh Kudles in the Birth Register of the said Gram Panchayat.
Due to public pressure and the complaints, the said birth certificate issued in the name of the father of the respondent was cancelled by an order dated December 20, 2013.
It is an undisputed fact that the date of birth of the father, as in the PAN Card and Passport, was April 17, 1954, and the Place of birth was Khokhara, Punjab.
One of the petitioner filed a complaint against the respondent and her father with the Mulund Police Station, Mumbai for submitting false documents while obtaining the caste certificate. Charge sheet was filed before the Metropolitan Magistrate Court at Mulund, Mumbai on August 6, 2015.
“Under section 10 of the said Caste Certificate Act any person, who has secured the benefits on the basis of the false caste certificate, on cancellation of such false caste certificate, is liable to be debarred from the concerned educational institution or as the case may be, discharged from the said employment forthwith and any other benefits enjoyed or derived by virtue of such admission or appointment by such person as aforesaid shall be withdrawn forthwith. He is also liable to various consequences prescribed under the said provision. Under section 11 of the said Caste Certificate Act, such person who obtains false caste certificate is also liable to be punished as prescribed therein”, Court notes while crystalizing relevant provisions under the Act.
Holding that the Scrutiny Committee did its job “rather sloppily” and “shirked the obligations imposed on it by the provisions of the Act”, the bench inter-alia marks,
- The Committee has not recorded any reasons as to why the objections of Vigilance Cell about the documents, was required to be rejected by it. Under Rule 18(12) of the Caste Certificate Rules, it is incumbent on the applicant to disclose all the true and correct information, including disclosure of adverse entries or material, failing which, it shall be lawful for the Scrutiny Committee to draw adverse inference.
- Though Committee was satisfied that the complaints made by petitioners, that the earlier caste validity certificate issued was based on fraudulent and fabricated documents, totally ignored the objections raised by the Vigilance Cell officer in various reports without recording any reasons.
- Under Rule 17(7), Caste Certificate Rules, findings recorded by the Vigilance Cell shall not be binding on the Scrutiny Committee. However it is obliged to record its reasons for discarding the same; “In this case, no such reasons are recorded for discarding the reports of Vigilance Cell raising doubts about the authenticity of the said alleged register showing the entry in the name of great grand-father of the respondent no.3 as a student of Khalsa College. In our view, the respondent no.2 committee has failed to follow the procedure prescribed under the Rule 17 of the Caste Certificate Rules while conducting an enquiry before issuance of the caste validity certificate in favour of respondent no.3 and has abdicated its duties.”
- Burden of proof was on the respondent to prove that she belonged to caste Mochi and was eligible to claim benefits provided to a reserved category candidate; “Though the Scrutiny Committee is not bound by the strict rules of evidence but is still bound by the principles of Evidence Act and also the natural justice.”
The bench referred to a catena of judgments on the aspect of Caste determination and issuance of false caste certificates, with the most recent pronouncement of the Supreme Court in District Collector Satara v. Mangesh and Anr., (2019) 10 SCC 166, where the Court recognised that troublesome aspect of this practice that the validity certificates are not only valid for that election, but also for all subsequent ones; “These certificates are not only valid for educational purposes but also for all other purposes. They can possibly become the basis for issuance of further certificates to their legal heirs.”
As reported by the Times of India, MP Rana has decided to prefer an appeal to the Top Court against the present verdict.
Case Title: Navneet Kaur Rana v. State of Maharashtra