Bombay High Court
Bombay High Court

Mumbai: A person seeking a caste certificate would have to apply for it to the competent authority of his or her own area/ territory, ruled the full bench of the Bombay High Court. The bench at Aurangabad has clarified that a certificate would be void if it is issued by a competent authority of one district to a person of some other district. The full bench led by Justice Prasanna Varale overruled the verdict of another bench headed by Justice Abhay Oka, who had allowed issuing of a certificate irrespective of territorial jurisdictions. Justice Oka had held that a caste certificate cannot be denied to any person citing territorial jurisdiction.

This ruling now stands quashed as the full bench has overruled Justice Oka's judgment. The full bench also comprising of Justices Arun Dhavale and R Achavat noted the growing tendency of the unscrupulous persons not belonging to either the Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes (SC ST) category, apply for a certificate. "In order curb such tendency, several provisions are made like the competent authority for issuing a caste certificate has to verify the revenue record and other public record and the school records which they can verify from their area conveniently. It will not be possible for the authorities to verify such records of persons originally belonging to some other area," the three-judge bench ruled.

"If a person originally belonging to district A obtains caste certificate from competent authority of district B which is situated far away from district A then nobody would be in a position to make any challenge to the caste certificate, which would be then meaningless," the judges ruled. Notably, the competent authority maintains a record of the certificates, it issued. This register is expected to be kept open for inspection by general public. "It will be practically impossible for members of the competent authority to verify the records, to make inquiries in other districts which may be situated far away from the district where they are working," the bench noted.

"All this would be effective to curb malpractices by unscrupulous persons from making false claims. We find that the restrictions on the local area for issuing caste certificate by the competent authority is deliberate and for definite object and purpose. There are reasonable and not arbitrary or discriminatory" the bench ruled. The judges further noted that the time limits prescribed for obtaining validity certificates are "practically" not followed.

They further noted the fact that such persons can misuse the certificates. "The restrictions imposed in the law that the person must obtain castes certificates from the competent authority of the area where the applicant or his forefathers were residing at the time of presidential order appears to be reasonable restriction and not discriminatory. It thus put the persons of genuine persons belonging to particular castes or tribes to some inconvenience," the bench ruled.

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