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One Can Claim Their Caste If They Have A Blood Relative: In Bombay High Court

If the applicant’s father or a blood relative already has a valid caste certificate, caste certifications can now be obtained without submitting several papers. The High Court Of Bombay upheld this through a Learned Bench S.V. GANGAPURWALA AND S.G. DIGE, JJ in SAURABH V. THE STATE OF MAHARASHTRA AND OTHERS (Writ Petition No.241 Of 2022).

Facts of the case – The petitioner’s tribal certificate as a member of the Thakur Scheduled Tribe was sent to respondent no. 2 – Scrutiny Committee for verification through the petitioner’s College, together with documentary proof of 1337 Fasli and certificates of validity. The incident was recommended for vigilance investigation by the Scrutiny Committee. The Scrutiny Committee served a copy of the vigilance cell report to the petitioner. After receiving it, they directed that a response be submitted. As a result, the petitioner responded to the vigilance cell report. Based on the materials on file and the vigilance cell report, the Scrutiny Committee rejected the petitioner’s Tribe claim in the challenged decision.

The petitioner’s learned counsel, Shri Yeramwar, claims that the Scrutiny Committee ignored documented evidence dating back to 1337 Fasli that showed the petitioner’s family’s social position as Thakur, Scheduled Tribe. The officers of the Vigilance Cell purposefully failed to gather the requisite evidence demonstrating that the petitioner was a member of the Thakur Scheduled Tribe. The Scrutiny Committee has discounted the validity certificates’ evidential value. This Court awarded these certifications of validity after careful consideration of all factors, but the Scrutiny Committee did not take them into account. The petitioner’s skilled counsel cited decisions in the instances of Anand v. Committee for Scrutiny and Verification of Tribal Claims and others.

According to the learned AGP, Mr. Patil, contra-entries are in the petitioner’s record. The petitioner’s relatives have said that they are “Maratha” and “Bhat.” There are counter entries, and the petitioner failed to meet the requirement of proving affinity. As a result, the Scrutiny Committee’s order is legitimate and valid.

The Scrutiny Committee, for three reasons, denied the petitioner’s caste claim. (i) Does the petitioner provide documented proof to support his claim? – No, (ii) Does the petitioner establish his claim by obtaining a certificate from his near blood relatives? – No, and (iii) Whether the candidate has demonstrated a connection to the community. – Not at all.

Before discussing the legality of the impugned order, the Learned Judge contends that the actual brother – Subham Ashok Nikam, cousin brother Yeshraj Dilip Nikam, and cousin sister Tanushree Dilip Nikam were all issued with Thakur. The Scheduled Tribe validity certificates according to orders issued by this Court in their respective petitions. The Scrutiny Committee found opposing entries of Maratha and Bhat in the academic records of the petitioner’s near blood relations. The contra evidence acquired by the Vigilance Officer regarding Dadasaheb Murlidhar Nikam and Kiran Murlidhar Nikam demonstrates their caste status as Bhat. It appears from the record that the Scrutiny Committee has validated the tribe claim of these persons by following due procedure of law and that too after considering the contra evidence stated above.

The Scrutiny Committee found that certain caste validities are gained by hiding key facts and submitting fraudulent information to support the petitioner’s claim through validity certificates granted to his near blood relations. In the petitioner’s family, there are around 33 caste validity certificates. According to the Learned Judge, some caste validities are awarded under the rulings of the Court, including the petitioner’s actual brother.

The relevant Scrutiny Committee issues other caste validities after following the proper procedure. As a result, the Scrutiny Committee should not have dismissed it. The decision in Apoorva d/o Vinay Nichale v. Divisional Caste Scrutiny Committee and others can be relied upon. The Scrutiny Committee further noted that the ‘Thakur’ group has a distinct dialect, whereas a member of the petitioner’s family talks in impure Marathi. The petitioner’s family celebrates Hindu holidays, but the Thakur community celebrates various holidays. The petitioner’s family performs the marriage ceremony according to Hindu custom, although the Thakur Community has its marital practices.

The affinity test was not intended to be used as a litmus test. In Anand’s case (supra), the Supreme Court said that a careful approach must be taken since, as a result of migrations, industrialization, and contact with other groups, these communities tend to evolve and accept new qualities that may not substantially fit the tribe’s traditional characteristics.

Since these three old entries and 33 caste validities of the ‘Thakur’ scheduled tribe issued to close blood relatives of the petitioner, establish that the petitioner belongs to the ‘Thakur’ caste. The Learned Judge believes that the Scrutiny Committee’s affinity test findings are unjustified and factually inaccurate.

Click here to view the Judgement

Reviewed by Rangasree.

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