28 Aug 2023 11:30 AM GMT
The Madras High Court recently lamented that though the framers of the Constitution dreamt of an egalitarian society where people irrespective of their religion, caste, or sex, would be treated equally, some people even today indulge in producing false caste certificates for seeking employment and education, thus depriving opportunity to the deserving. Justice N Mala noted that it...
The Madras High Court recently lamented that though the framers of the Constitution dreamt of an egalitarian society where people irrespective of their religion, caste, or sex, would be treated equally, some people even today indulge in producing false caste certificates for seeking employment and education, thus depriving opportunity to the deserving.
Justice N Mala noted that it was because of people like this, that Dr. Ambedkar’s dream of achieving a casteless society was still a dream.
“The framers of our constitution dreamt of an egalitarian society. The constitutional provisions and the scheme of reservation for the backward classes and the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe were meant to achieve the goal of equality, where all people irrespective of their religion, caste and sex would be treated equally with respect, dignity and honour. It is unfortunate, nay, dismaying that certain unscrupulous elements indulge in producing false certificates for the purpose of seeking employment and education, thus, depriving the truly deserving persons of their rights guaranteed under the constitution. Therefore, the Hon'ble Supreme Court has held that people who indulge in fraud for procuring the community certificate commit fraud not only on the society, but on the constitution. No wonder that the dream of Dr.Ambedkar, of achieving the goal of casteless and classless society 50 years ago still remains a dream!” Justice Mala remarked.
Justice Mala along with Justice Nisha Banu was dealing with a plea filed by V Perumal against an order passed by the State Level Scrutiny Committee which had found his caste certificate, claiming that he belonged to Hindu Kaatunayakken Community, to be false. The committee had found that he belonged to the “Hindu Man Ottar community”, which was a Most Backward Class community and not the “Hindu Kaatunayakken community”, which was a Scheduled Tribe community.
Perumal had challenged the order mainly on two grounds. Firstly, the principles of natural justice were violated since the committee did not grant him an opportunity to present his case before passing the order. Secondly, he relied on an Officer Memorandum of the Lok Sabha Secretariat (Parliamentary Committee on the Welfare of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes) dated 24.12.2020, wherein the Parliamentary committee had directed the State Level Scrutiny committee to verify the Scheduled Tribe caste certificate of only those who were appointed after the year 1995. He thus contended that the State Level Scrutiny Committee did not have the jurisdiction to verify his certificate which was issued way back before 1995.
The first contention was found to be untenable since Perumal was given ample opportunity to present his case, but he did not utilize the same and failed to appear for even a single enquiry. Thus, Justice Mala noted that he himself was to blame, for consciously failing to participate in the enquiry in spite of repeated notices and thus there was no violation of the principles of natural justice.
With respect to the second contention, Justice Mala noted that fraud vitiated everything and therefore, Perumal could not rely on the cut off date for verification when the case was tainted with fraud.
“As stated, fraud vitiates everything and therefore there cannot be a cut off date for verification of the community certificates, tainted with fraud. Consent to the self-serving interpretation given to the O.M. by the petitioner would be a fraud on the constitution itself,” Justice Mala said.
She further noted that it was one thing to say that verification could be made only for appointments from 1995 and another thing to say that no verification could be made for appointments before 1995. She observed that interpretation as suggested by the petitioner was “putting a premium on fraud”.
“It would be like saying that any fraud that was committed before 1995 could be ignored and only fraud committed after 1995 could be brought to book. To further exemplify it would be like stating that any person found guilty of corruption of over Rs.10,000/- alone can be penalised and persons indulging in corruption of a lesser sum can be allowed to go scot-free. Therefore the contention of the petitioner that any certificate issued before 1995 could not be verified by the State Level Scrutiny Committee, as per O.M. dated 24.12.2020 is untenable,” Justice Mala observed.
Thus, noting that in the present case, the scrutiny committee had gone through all available materials to reach the conclusion, the court said that cancellation of Perumal’s certificate was justified and confirmed the same.
Different Opinion By Justice Nisha Banu
Justice Nisha Banu also lamented such fraudulent certificates for public administrations and said that delayed verification and complexity of the best known methods added to the challenge.
“The menace of unscrupulous individuals manoeuvring the system to obtain false caste certificates and securing admissions to education institutions and employment in Government and public sectors effectively depriving the constitutional rights of deserving communities had been a challenge for public administration for many reasons,” she observed.
However, taking note of the office memorandum which was brought in to address the problem confounding to abuse of schemes, Justice Banu opined that for appointments that took place prior to 1995, it was not open for the Central Government, State Government and the Public Sector Undertakings to deny continuous employment or post-retirement benefits on the basis of false claims or doubtful caste/community certificate produced at the time of appointment.
“In the light of the instructions contained in O.M. dated 24.12.2020, the question of stripping of degrees and denying retirement benefits on the ground of false certificates will cease to exist. Consequent to the issue of the O.M. dated 24.12.2020, the proceedings of the State Level Committee is of no consequence to the facts and circumstances of this case” Justice Banu said while directing the bank to pay all retirement benefits within a period of eight weeks.
Since both the judges in the bench gave contradicting views, the bench directed the matter to be placed before the Chief Justice for further action.
Case Title: V Perumal v Tamil Nadu State Level Scrutiny Committee and others
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Mad) 246