In a relief to Lok Sabha MP Navneet Kaur Rana, the Supreme Court Tuesday stayed the Bombay High Court verdict cancelling the caste certificate of the independent lawmaker representing Maharashtra's Amravati constituency, reserved for scheduled castes. The Bombay High Court had on June 9 cancelled the caste certificate of Rana, saying it was obtained fraudulently using fabricated documents, and had also imposed a fine of Rs 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 Anandra Vithoba Adsul who had challenged the veracity of the caste certificate of the MP. Issue notice. We will have it for hearing on July 27. Meanwhile, we have stayed the judgement 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 Rana's appeal and stay the high court's judgement at the outset, took note of vehement submission of senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Adsul, that the verdict not be stayed without hearing him. I have a lot more to say, Sibal said and referred to various documents to show that the high court rightly cancelled the caste certificate.
So do I, Rohatgi said and referred to the fact that his membership to the Lok Sabha is sought to be annulled without filling the election petition. Rana, backed by Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), had won from Amravati constituency in 2019 by claiming to be a member of 'Mochi' scheduled caste.
During the hearing, Rohatgi submitted that the terms 'Mochi' and 'Chamaar' are synonymous. 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 Rana said. A division bench of the high court, in its judgement, had asked Rana to surrender the certificate within six weeks and had asked her to pay a penalty of Rs 2 lakh to the Maharashtra Legal Services Authority within two weeks.
The high court had held that Rana's claim of belonging to 'Mochi' caste for obtaining the scheduled caste 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 (Rana) to contest the election for the post of member of parliament 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, the bench had said. The high court in its judgement had also noted the abysmal functioning of the scrutiny committee.
The high court had passed the order on a petition filed by social worker Anandrao Adsule, seeking cancellation of the caste certificate dated August 30, 2013, issued by Mumbai deputy collector, identifying Rana as belonging to the 'Mochi' caste. Adsule filed a complaint with the Mumbai District Caste Certificate Scrutiny Committee, which ruled in Rana's favour and validated the certificate. Adsule then approached the high court.
He contended that Rana obtained the certificate using forged and fabricated documents. It was obtained by using the influence of Navneet Rana's husband Ravi Rana, who was a member of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly, 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 Navneet Rana did not mention the caste 'Mochi'.