In a significant order, the Bombay High Court (HC) on Tuesday directed all the district caste scrutiny committees to dispose of the pleas filed by elected candidates to validate their caste claims expeditiously.
A bench of Justices Ramesh Dhanuka and Madhav Jamdar further directed the committees to dispose of such validity applications of elected candidates within eight months.
The bench issued a general directive while hearing a writ petition filed by one Mandakini Kokane, who challenged the orders of the caste scrutiny committee, Igatpuri, Nashik that did not validate her claim of being a member of the Kunbi community, which comes under the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category.
While dismissing her plea for want of merits, the bench noted that in most such cases the committees give out their decision after consuming a lot much time and not within the mandatory 12 months time span.
"All the district caste scrutiny committees are directed to dispose of the matters which are covered by the mandatory period of twelve months as provided in the Maharashtra Village Panchayat Act of 1959, the Maharashtra Municipal Councils, Nagar Panchayat and Industrial Townships Act of 1965, the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act of 1888 and the Maharashtra Municipal Corporation Act of 1949 as expeditiously as possible," the bench said.
"The committees are to dispose of the pleas, in any case within a period of eight months," the bench said while adding that this would be done subject to certain reasonable conditions.
While explaining the conditions, the judges said that the elected candidate, who has applied for getting caste certificate validated must convey his or her election result and this order (passed by the judges) to the relevant district caste scrutiny committee personally or through his Advocate within a period of two weeks from the date of declaration of the result.
"With his application, the candidate must point out to the Committee the time period of twelve months as provided in various provisions, and must request the committee to expedite the hearing and to complete the proceedings within the time prescribed by us in this verdict," the judges said.
"The relevant caste scrutiny committee must fix a tentative time table for disposal of a case in maximum period of eight months from the communication of the elected candidate. However while fixing the time table the Committee shall also have regard to the provisions of said Act and said Rules," the bench added.
The judges further said that the candidate must completely co-operate in the expeditious disposal of the respective proceedings before the committee and shall not take any adjournment without valid reasons.
"It is specifically directed that in case such elected candidate fails to comply with our directions then the time limit as fixed herein will not apply to such proceedings," the bench clarified.