The Writ Petition was filed in Bombay High Court under Article 226 and 227 of the Constitution of India. The Petition challenged the Order of the District Caste Certificate Scrutiny Committee, Nasik in this Petition.
The Petitioner, Mandakini Kachru Kokane, was the candidate for the direct post of Sarpanch of the Ghoti Gram panchayat, which was reserved for OBC candidates. In this election, Respondent no. 3 was also the candidate for the same post against the Petitioner. At the time of submission of the nomination form, the Petitioner promised that she would submit the cast certificate within one year from the date of the result. On 26/06/2019, the result of the election was declared and the Petitioner was elected as the Sarpanch. As she was elected, she had to submit the caste clearance certificate. Thus she applied for the same at the District Scrutiny Committee and Vigilance Committee and they inspected the matter at the office of Tahsildar. But did not find any record regarding the same.
Due to Covid 19 pandemic and lockdown this matter didn’t get listed from March to May. Finally, the case was heard on 17-06-2020. District Scrutiny Committee directed her to submit an original certified copy of form no. 14 of the year 1893 by 18-06-2020. As it was not possible to submit it in such a short period, the Petitioner filed an affidavit of Ashok Kisan Kokane. Along with this, the Petitioner also filed a certified copy of form no. 14 by 25-06-2020. Without considering this document, the committee rejected the application filed by the Petitioner.
Arguments on behalf of the Petitioner
Ld. Counsel on behalf of the Petitioner submitted that the Petitioner had all the needed documents to prove that she belonged to Kunbi. Petitioner also sought a direction to extend the period for submitting a caste certificate. On 26/06/2019, the Petitioner was elected as Sarpanch. Committee passed the Order on 25/06/2020 (the last day to submit caste validity certificate). So, the election commission disqualified the Petitioner. The reason given by the Petitioner was, extend the period of submitting the caste validity certificate because of the Covid 19 pandemic, and lockdown, the committee was not functioning for almost 4 months (3 months and 20 days).
Arguments on behalf of Respondents
Counsel on behalf of Respondents made the following submissions. He pointed to paragraph 14 of the Order given by the District Scrutiny Committee, Nasik, in that paragraph committee gave reasons for rejection of the application. Reasons were: (1) The Petitioner failed to show a relation between Ghotikar and Kokane. (2) All documents, which Petitioner submitted were of Kokane not of Ghotikar. (3) No document showed Bhiva Trimbaka Kokane was Bhiva Trimbaka Ghotikar. (4) There was no document to show that the Petitioner belonged to the Kunbi caste. (5) The Petitioner never submit an original certified copy of village form no. 14 of village Sansari. The Petitioner submitted the document on the date of the Order after the committee passed the Order. Counsel also submitted School leaving certificate of the petitioner, which showed the Petitioner belonged to Hindu-Maratha.
In this case, the Court identified three major questions. The first question was related to the legality and validity of the Order passed by the committee. In this issue, the Court referred to the Kumari Madhuri Patil and Another v. Additional Commissioner of Tribal Development, and Others, in this case, Court stated that until fact found vitiated, the fact recorded by the committee would prevail. Head Master of the school-issued school leaving certificate of Petitioner mentioning that the religion and caste of the Petitioner were “Hindu-Maratha. In an affidavit filed by Anil Vasant Daunde working as Tahsildar, he said that the old register of the year 1893 carrying the details of the village was damaged. So, the reconstruction of the document was not possible and it was clear that the document of 1893 was not established. As they did not place an original certified copy, the reason given by the committee for discarding this document was not perverse. In the case of Anent H. Ulahalkar and another v. Chief Election Commission and Ors, the Court explained Section 9(A) of Maharashtra Municipal Councils Nagar Panchayats and Industrial Townships Act, 1965.
The Court rejected the Petition seeking direction to set aside the Order passed by the district caste scrutiny committee on 25/06/2020. Also, directed all the District Scrutiny committee to dispose of the matter which was covered by the mandatory period of twelve months as expeditiously as possible and in any case within eight months and put few conditions to the Petitioner and also direct the chief secretary of the State of Maharashtra to circulate to all the District Caste Scrutiny Committees copy of the Judgment within thirty days from date of judgment.
Click here to view the Judgement.
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