11 July 2023 7:57 AM GMT
The Patna High Court has upheld the decision of the State Election Commission, Bihar, to disqualify a candidate who despite belonging to a Scheduled Tribe had contested from a seat reserved for Scheduled Castes. The court said that only members of the community for which seats are reserved can contest elections on those specific seats.“As she belongs to ‘Tharu’ caste under Scheduled...
The Patna High Court has upheld the decision of the State Election Commission, Bihar, to disqualify a candidate who despite belonging to a Scheduled Tribe had contested from a seat reserved for Scheduled Castes. The court said that only members of the community for which seats are reserved can contest elections on those specific seats.
“As she belongs to ‘Tharu’ caste under Scheduled Tribe category by virtue of her father being a ‘Tharu’ caste, she was not entitled to file nomination for a seat which is reserved for Scheduled caste female” said the bench of Justice Rajiv Roy.
The petitioner, Palak Bharti, had been elected as the "Mukhiya" of the Gram Panchayat Raj Kolhua Choutarwa in Block-Bagaha-1, West Champaran district, on a Scheduled Caste female seat. However, a complaint was filed by one Nand Kishor Ram, stating that Bharti belonged to the Scheduled Tribe category as she was the daughter of Budhai Mahto, a member of the 'Tharu' caste, which is recognized as a Scheduled Tribe.
Following the complaint, an inquiry was conducted by the District Magistrate, West Champaran, and it was determined that Bharti indeed belonged to the 'Tharu' caste, a Scheduled Tribe. The State Election Commission subsequently disqualified Bharti from the post of 'Mukhiya' on the grounds that her election on a Scheduled Caste seat was invalid.
Aggrieved by the decision, Bharti filed a writ petition seeking the quashing of the disqualification order and the cancellation of her caste certificate.
The petitioner’s counsel argued that her mother, Indu Devi, belonged to the Scheduled Caste category, and after her marriage to Budhai Mahto, Palak Bharti's father, they resided in the Scheduled Caste colony, where both Palak Bharti and her sister were born. The counsel contended that all educational documents reflected their Scheduled Caste status, and Palak Bharti's husband also belonged to the same caste.
The counsel for the State Election Commission, Advocate Sanjeev Nikesh, maintained that the Commission was duty-bound to act in accordance with the law based on the report from the District Magistrate, which found Palak Bharti did not belong to the Scheduled Caste category.
Echoing the Commission's submissions, the State argued that Palak Bharti's father indeed belonged to the Tharu caste, a Scheduled Tribe category. Thus, she was ineligible to contest from a seat reserved for Scheduled Caste females, it said.
After hearing the arguments from both parties, the Court concurred with the submissions put forward by both - the counsel for ‘the Commission’ as well as the State.
The court ruled that since Bharti's father belongs to the Scheduled Tribe, their children naturally fall under the Scheduled Tribe category. The court dismissed Bharti's contention that residing in a Scheduled Caste colony should qualify her as Scheduled Caste, stating it as a mere imagination.
"In the considered view of the Court, having chosen to by-pass Caste Scrutiny Committee, the petitioner cannot expect the Writ Court to come to her rescue when unimpeachable evidences are there to prove that she belongs to ‘Tharu’ caste under the Scheduled Tribe category by virtue of being daughter of Budhai Mahto, who admittedly is a ‘Tharu Caste (Scheduled Tribe category)," the court said while dismissing the petition.
However, the court said she can approach the Caste Scrutiny Committee for declaration of her caste and the consequences will automatically follow. "However, till the Caste Scrutiny Committee takes a decision, the enquiry report submitted by the DistrictAdministration (which led ‘ the Commission’ to pass the order) will hold ground," the court concluded," it added.
Case Title: Palak Bharti vs. The State Of Bihar and Others Civil Writ Jurisdiction Case No.1893 of 2018
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Pat) 78
For the Petitioner/s: Mr. Rohit Kumar Tripathi, Advocate
For the Respondent no.9: Mr. Vijay Kumar Singh, Advocate
For the State: Mr. Prem Ranjan Rai, AC to SC 7
For State Elections Commission: Mr. Sanjeev Nikesh, Advocate Mr. Girish Pandey, Advocate
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