Supreme Court
Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court Friday set aside a Bombay High Court judgement which had declared the 'Gowari' community, which was a part of the special Backward Classes in Maharashtra, as Scheduled Tribe (ST) 'Gond Gowari' in the state, saying that they are "two distinct and separate castes".

The Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court, on August 14, 2018, had held that 'Gond Gowari' community, included as ST in the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950, has become extinct before 1911 and there was no trace of its existence either in Maharashtra or in Madhya Pradesh prior to 1956.

The High Court declared that the 'Gond Gowari' tribe was not existing on October 29, 1956, when it was included as ST in the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950 in relation to Maharashtra and the 'Gowari' cannot be denied the benefits of the Scheduled Tribes.

A bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and M R Shah dealt with constitutional provisions and the judgement of the high court in detail and held that it was not open for the high court to adduce evidence to ascertain whether Gowari' community was 'Gond Gowari" and needed to be treated as Scheduled Tribe for all purposes including the grant of reservation. "None of the reasons given by the High Court in. the judgment is sustainable to hold that 'Gowari' are entitled to Scheduled Tribes Certificate of 'Gond Gowari'. The entire basis of the judgment of the High Court that tribe 'Gond Gowari' was completely extinct before 1911 having been found to be flawed, the entire basis of judgment is knocked out," Justice Bhushan, writing the judgement, said.

The top court, however, took a view that benefits of reservation in admissions and jobs taken by the members of 'Gowari' community following the high court's judgement will not be taken away.

"We in the ends of justice direct that the admission taken and employment secured by the members of 'Gowari' community on the basis of Scheduled Tribe certificate granted to them between August 14, 2018, till date shall not be affected by this judgment and they shall be allowed to retain the benefit of Scheduled Tribe obtained by them.

"However, the above Scheduled Tribe candidates shall not be entitled to any further benefit as Scheduled Tribe except their initial admission in different courses or employment at different places on the strength of Scheduled Tribe certificate given to the 'Gowari' Community obtained between August 14, 2018 and this day," the bench said in its 101-page judgement.

The judgement came on a batch of appeals including those filed by the Maharashtra and the Centre against the high court's judgement.

The top court held that the High Court "erred in declaring 'Gowari' as 'Gond Gowari' a Scheduled Tribes referred to in item 28 in Entry 18.

The top court dealt with six issues in the judgment and one of them was whether High Court "could have entertained the claim of the caste "Gowari", which is not included as Scheduled Tribe in the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950, that it be declared a Scheduled Tribe as "Gond Govari" and further to take evidence to adjudicate such claim".

Answering the issue, the top court said, "the conclusion is inescapable that the High Court could not have entertained the claim or looked into the evidence to find out and decide that tribe 'Gowari' is part of Scheduled Tribe 'Gond Gowari', which is included in the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950." It also said that the High Court could not have entered into the issue that 'Gond Gowari' which was Scheduled Tribe mentioned in Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950 "is no more in existence and became extinct before 1911".

"The conclusion of the High Court in the impugned judgment that 'Gond Gowari' Tribe had been extinct before 1911 is not supported by the materials which were on the record before the High Court," it held.

The caste 'Gowari' and 'Gond Gowari' are two distinct and separate castes, it held.

The issue had come before the high court when one Keshao Vishwanath Sunone, a member of 'Gowari caste', took employment by taking quota benefits as ST available to 'Gond Gowari' and had moved the court after his caste certificate was invalidated by the state authority.

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