The Bombay High Court on Tuesday cancelled and confiscated the “wrong caste certificate” obtained by Amravati MP Navneet Kaur-Rana in 2017 and said that such an act may “deprive genuine and deserving persons from benefits prescribed in the law.”
The court asked Kaur-Rana to surrender the certificate to the Committee within six weeks and directed her to pay a cost of Rs 2 lakh to the Maharashtra Legal Services Authority within two weeks, adding that “all the consequences in law provided upon cancellation of such a fraudulently obtained certificate shall follow.”
The court also pulled up the District Caste Scrutiny Committee, Mumbai, which issued the certificate in November 2017, saying it “did its job rather sloppily and shirked the obligations imposed on it”.
With the order, the Member of Parliament, who got elected in the 2019 general elections as an independent candidate, may have to lose the seat which was reserved for a candidate from a Scheduled Caste.
A first-time independent Parliamentarian, Rana, 35, had won the 2019 Lok Sabha elections after the Congress-NCP combine decided to extend support to her, leading to her defeating then sitting MP, Shiv Sena’s Anandrao Adsul. But since the 2019 elections, Rana was said to be increasingly gravitating towards the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
A division bench of Justice RD Dhanuka and Justice VG Bisht on Tuesday passed the judgment on pleas filed by Adsul, along with Raju Mankar, a social worker from Amravati, challenging the order passed by the Committee validating the SC certificate of Kaur-Rana.
Adsul also prayed for quashing and setting aside the caste certificate issued by Deputy Collector, Mumbai in favour of Kaur-Rana on August 8, 2013, identifying Rana as belonging to the “Mochi” caste.
Senior advocate CM Korde, representing Adsul, said that Kaur-Rana, with an intention to contest the parliamentary election in 2014 only, had asked her father to create records that could be used by her for obtaining the caste validity certificate. Senior Counsel Prasad K Dhakephalkar, for the respondent MP, opposed the pleas.
The HC noted that the claim of belonging to the “Mochi” caste made by Kaur-Rana was fraudulent and observed that “two sets of documents” produced by the MP before the Scrutiny Committee were “contradictory to each other”, adding that such “wrong caste certificate” may deprive genuine and deserving persons of their due benefits.
“In our view, the claim was made with the intention to obtain various benefits available to a candidate from such Scheduled Caste category, knowing 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 to contest an election for member of parliament on the seat reserved for a Scheduled Caste candidate,” the bench held.
The Court went on to note, “Since the respondent 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 a fraudulently obtained certificate shall follow.”
While pulling up the Scrutiny Committee, the court said, “We are of the firm view that Scrutiny Committee did its job rather sloppily and shirked the obligations imposed on it by the provisions of the Act, if we may say so…We are constrained to put a word or two as to the abysmal functioning of the Scrutiny Committee which is more or less akin to and trappings of judicial functioning and therefore, requires a high degree of sensible approach with all circumspection.”
The bench, while disposing of the pleas, also reminded the Committee that it should be more “cautious” and “careful” before validating the caste certificates.
Kaur-Rana said she will challenge the verdict in the top court. “I respect the court’s order as a citizen of this country. I will approach the Supreme Court. I am confident that I will get justice,” she said after the HC order.