The high court could not have issued a writ of quo warranto until the Income and Caste Certificate issued in favour of the appellant, on the basis of which she participated in the election for the post of Adhyaksha and got elected, was to be declared void or invalidated by the Caste Scrutiny Committee, the bench observed.
The Supreme Court, in Bharati Reddy v The State of Karnataka, has observed that that unless the writ court is satisfied that the incumbent was not eligible at all as per the statutory provisions for being appointed or elected to the public office or that he/she has incurred disqualification to continue in the said office, which satisfaction should be founded on the indisputable facts, the high court ought not to entertain the prayer for issuance of a writ of quo warranto.
A writ petition was filed before Karnataka High Court contending that Bharati Reddy, a Panchayath member, submitted a bogus and false certificate indicating that she belongs to the backward Community-B category, which was obtained surreptitiously.
After perusing the file, the high court observed that process of issuance of the certificate to the appellant by the jurisdictional Authority was done in a mortal hurry. On this basis, the high court opined that there was something seriously wrong about the process adopted by the authority for issuance of caste certificate, which was done to favour the appellant who could then contest the election. The high court did not quash the caste certificate as being void but left it open to the Caste Verification Committee to proceed in accordance with law.
So the issue raised before the apex court was whether the high court could have issued a writ of quo warranto until the Income and Caste Certificate issued in favour of the appellant, on the basis of which she participated in the election for the post of ‘Adhyaksha’ and got elected, was to be declared void or invalidated by the Caste Scrutiny Committee.
The bench comprising Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, Justice AM Khanwilkar and Justice DY Chandrachud observed that writ of quo warranto could be issued only if the Income and Caste Certificate was held to be void or after it was invalidated by the competent authority. It said: “The High court merely expressed a prima facie opinion that the process adopted by the respondent No.5 to issue the Income and Caste Certificate to the appellant created a serious doubt. At best, it observed that the appellant was instrumental in playing fraud upon the jurisdictional Authority and/or the said Authority colluded with the appellant, by surreptitiously issuing the Income and Caste Certificate to the appellant. But, finally, it has left the question regarding the validity of the certificate open to be decided by the Caste Verification Committee, in the pending proceedings, dealing with the factum of validity of the certificate issued to the appellant. Having said this, the High Court could not have issued a writ of quo warranto. That writ could be issued only if the Income and Caste Certificate was held to be void or after it was invalidated by the Competent Authority.”
The court also observed that the mere fact that the caste certificate has been issued within a short span of five days albeit after following due procedure, can be no just basis to invalidate the certificate by the Caste Verification Committee. “For a person possessing an Income and Caste Certificate issued by the jurisdictional Authority and so long as it is valid and in force, in fact and in law, treating such a person as usurper of the public office and occupying it without legal authority, cannot be countenanced,” the bench observed.