Mumbai: Bombay HC asks ST Scrutiny Committee to issue Koli Mahadev tribe certificate to 3 petitioners

The court quashes earlier orders of Committee, stated that “affinity test is not the litmus test” for establishing the link of the petitioners with a scheduled tribe.

Urvi MahajaniUpdated: Saturday, September 24, 2022, 11:42 PM IST
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HC asks ST Scrutiny Committee to issue Koli Mahadev tribe certificate to 3 petitioners | Photo: Representative Image

The Bombay High Court has quashed the orders of Scheduled Tribe Certificate Scrutiny Committee denying “Koli Mahadev, Scheduled Tribe” to three persons observing that the same were “unsustainable in law, perverse and vitiated by complete disregard to the judicial pronouncements”. The Committee has been directed to issue validity certificates in the name of the Petitioners of “Koli Mahadev, Scheduled Tribe” immediately.

A division bench of Justices SV Gangapurwala and RN Laddha, on September 23, while relying on a Supreme Court judgement, said that “affinity test is not the litmus test” for establishing the link of the petitioners with a scheduled tribe. An Affinity Test is used to shift through anthropological and ethnological traits to link a person to a tribe.

The HC was hearing three different petition filed by cousins, Abhishek Umbarje, Dhiren Umbarje and Chandrakant Umbarje, challenging the Scrutniy Committee’s decision invalidating their tribe certificates belonging to Koli Mahadev-Scheduled Tribe.

“Moreover, the affinity test is not the litmus test for establishing the links of the Petitioners with a scheduled tribe as enunciated by the Hon’ble Supreme Court,” noted the HC.

Abhishek’s petition claims that he was given a Tribe Certificate by the Competent Authority on May 18, 2005, certifying that he belonged to the Koli Mahadev - Scheduled Tribe. For pursuing higher studies he forwarded the certificate to the Scrutiny Committee for verification. He submitted various documents which consisted of pre-constitutional period documents and the certificates of validity issued to his blood relatives.

He had also attached several orders passed by HC wherein the Scrutiny Committee was directed to give validity certificates to the blood relatives of the Petitioner from his paternal side.

On March 7 this year, the Scrutiny Committee rejected his tribe claim stating that he “failed the affinity test”. Similarly, tribe certificates of other two petitioners were also rejected on same ground. Their advocate, RK Mendadkar, argued that the Committee failed to acknowledge that it had granted tribe validity certificates in favour of several blood relatives of the petitioners.

Additional government pleader SB Kalel opposed the petitions claiming that in several documents, the blood relatives of the Petitioners have been shown as belonging to the “Koli caste” and not the “Koli Mahadev-Scheduled Tribe”.

Noting that the Committee failed to “appreciate the documents of the pre-constitutional era in their proper perspective”, the HC said that the petitioners had submitted documents indicating the tribe and social status of their blood relatives like father, brother, uncle, sister etc. to be that of KoliMahadev, Scheduled Tribe.

“The documents relied upon by the Petitioners are much before 1950. The Respondent Committee should have given due weightage to such pre-constitutional period documents,” added the judges.

Quashing the decisions of the Committee, the HC said: “… Having found that each of the findings and conclusions is unsustainable in law, perverse and vitiated by complete disregard to the judicial pronouncements, we have no hesitation in allowing these writ petitions.”

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