SC stays Bombay HC verdict on Amravati MP caste certificate

On the next date of hearing the matter will be disposed of, says apex court

In a relief to Lok Sabha MP Navneet Kaur Rana, the Supreme Court on Tuesday stayed the Bombay High Court verdict cancelling the caste certificate of the independent lawmaker representing the Amravati constituency, reserved for the Scheduled Castes.

The Bombay High Court had on June 9 cancelled the caste certificate saying it was obtained fraudulently using fabricated documents, and had also imposed a fine of ₹2 lakh on her.

A vacation bench of Justices Vineet Saran and Dinesh Maheshwari took note of the submissions of senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the lawmaker, and issued notices to respondents including the State government, District Caste Scrutiny Committee and social worker Anandra Vithoba Adsul who had challenged the veracity of the certificate.

“Issue notice. We will have it for hearing on July 27. Meanwhile, we have stayed the judgment of the Bombay High Court. It is understood that on the next date of hearing the matter will be disposed of,” the bench said.

The court, which proposed to issue notice on Ms. Rana’s appeal and stay the High Court’s judgment at the outset, took note of vehement submission of senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Mr. Adsul, that the verdict not be stayed without hearing him.

“I have a lot more to say,” Mr. Sibal said and referred to various documents to show that the High Court had rightly cancelled the certificate.

“So do I,” Mr. Rohatgi said and referred to the fact that the membership to the Lok Sabha is sought to be annulled without filling the election petition.

Ms. Rana, backed by the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), had won from the Amravati constituency in 2019 by claiming to be a member of the Mochi Scheduled Caste.

The scrutiny committee had decided her caste status based on original records produced before it and there is a presumption that documents over 30 years old are correct, he said, adding that the genuineness of the documents was not contested.

“However, the High Court reversed the scrutiny committee’s decision while hearing a petition under Article 226 [writ petition],” the senior lawyer for Ms. Rana said.

A division bench of the High Court, in its judgement, had asked Ms. Rana to surrender the certificate within six weeks.

It had held that Ms. Rana’s claim of belonging to the Mochi caste for obtaining the SC certificate itself was fraudulent and made with the intention of obtaining various benefits available to a candidate from such category, despite knowing she does not belong to that caste.

“The application [for caste certificate] was made intentionally to make a fraudulent claim to enable the respondent no.3 [Ms. Rana] to contest the election for the post of MP on a seat reserved for a Scheduled Caste candidate,” the Bombay high court had said in its judgement.

“In our view, since respondent no.3 has obtained the caste certificate fraudulently and got it validated fraudulently from the Caste Scrutiny Committee by producing fabricated and fraudulent documents, such caste certificate is cancelled and stands confiscated.”

It had also noted the “abysmal” functioning of the scrutiny committee.

The court had passed the order on a petition filed by Mr. Adsule, seeking cancellation of the caste certificate dated August 30, 2013, issued by Mumbai deputy collector.

Mr. Adsule filed a complaint with the Mumbai District Caste Certificate Scrutiny Committee, which ruled in Ms. Rana’s favour and validated the certificate. He then approached the High Court.

He contended that Ms. Rana obtained the certificate using forged and fabricated documents.

It was obtained by using the influence of her husband Ravi Rana, who was an MLA, he alleged.

The High Court held that the order passed by the scrutiny committee was “totally perverse, without the application of mind and contrary to the evidence on record”.

The bench had noted that the original birth certificate of Ms. Rana did not mention the caste Mochi.

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