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HC cancels 33,000 caste certificates

Author: Swati Deshpande, TNN
Publication: The Times of India
Date: May 5, 2012
URL:  http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-05-05/mumbai/31586294_1_validity-certificates-caste-certificates-sc-ruling

The Bombay high court on Friday nullified 33,000 caste certificates issued in Maharashtra, even as it slammed the state for playing "a fraud on the Constitution by constituting special caste scrutiny committees in violation of Supreme Court's 1994 judgment".

 The SC ruling called for a mandatory vigilance cell report to validate certificates issued to members of scheduled castes/tribes and other backward classes. The HC has declared certificates issued by scrutiny committees in the absence of such reports invalid. The court also quashed a GR of July 30, 2011, that set up caste scrutiny committees and directed the state to "recover and destroy all original certificates issued by the specially constituted scrutiny committees" . The HC gave the state three months to destroy the certificates.

A bench of Justice Ajay Khanwilkar and Justice Nitin Jamdar said the SC emphasized that the wrongful grant of a caste certificate is a fraud on the Constitution . It deprives genuine SC/ST candidates of benefits. "The state's action of setting up committees and issuing 33,505 validity certificates without verificati-on , refusing to take remedial measu-res and attempting to protract litigation can be no greater fraud on the Constitution," the bench said.

 The judgment came in response to 21 writs filed by people who contested or desired to contest polls to local self governments, including municipal corporations and councils, zilla parishads and panchayat samitis between July 2011 and February 2012. The main challenge was that committees set up in each district to validate caste certificates flouted the 1994 SC order. Appearing for lead petitioner Mangesh Kashid, senior counsel a Anturkar said mostly, no vigilance cell report was sought.

  Justifying the action, special counsel for state V A Gangal said the panels were set up under a law enacted in 2001 to govern issuance of caste certificates. He said the SC ruling was a "stop-gap arrangement" and once the state law was in place, "any deviation from the SC order was permissible" . He added in a 2012 verdict, the SC didn't suggest requirement of a vigilance cell report. Besides, he said, invalidating the special committee would have "disastrous impact" as "over 35 lakh claims, validated by the committees since 1995 will be invalidated... ". Admissions, job postings and election results would have to be set aside, said Gangal, urgi ng the HC not to overlook "ground realities".
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