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Caste Scrutiny Committee Cannot Review Its Own Decision Except In Cases Of Fraud Or Misrepresentation – Bombay High Court

Sharmeen Hakim
17 March 2022 12:12 PM GMT
Caste Scrutiny Committee Cannot Review Its Own Decision Except In Cases Of Fraud Or Misrepresentation – Bombay High Court
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Holding that a Caste Scrutiny Committee can review its own decision only in exceptional cases when there is any playing of fraud or suppression of material facts or misrepresentation of facts, the Bombay High Court set aside a show cause notice by the Committee seeking to review it earlier orders. A division bench of Justices Sunil Shukre and GA Sanap, in an order passed last week,...

Holding that a Caste Scrutiny Committee can review its own decision only in exceptional cases when there is any playing of fraud or suppression of material facts or misrepresentation of facts, the Bombay High Court set aside a show cause notice by the Committee seeking to review it earlier orders.

A division bench of Justices Sunil Shukre and GA Sanap, in an order passed last week, said that a quasi-judicial authority did not have statutory power to review its own decision, but judicial pronouncements, while giving the power to the Committee to review its orders in exceptional cases in the past had held, "The principle of "finality of litigation" cannot be pressed to the extent of such an absurdity that it becomes an engine of fraud in the hands of dishonest litigants."

The court was hearing a petition filed by one Vishnu Rajaram Thakar against the Scheduled Tribe Certificate Scrutiny Committee, Pune, two show cause notices issued on May 2, 2018 and August 24, 2018. By these notices the Committee sought to cancel the certificate of Tribe Validity granted to the Thakar.

While Thakar's counsels argued that the basis for issuing of the notices itself had been taken away, the Committee could not review its own orders. The Additional Government Pleader, however, argued otherwise, and submitted that the Committee did have powers to review its own decisions when the certificate was obtained by practicing fraud or suppressing facts or misrepresenting facts. She argued that misrepresentation was writ large in the case at hand.

Thakar's counsels argued that the basis on which the Committee had issued the notices did not exist anymore and no fraud was played by Thakar before the Committee while seeking a Caste Validity Certificate.

According to Thakar's counsels, one of the reasons for issuance of the notices was invalidation of Thakar's daughter's Tribe certificate, which was eventually overturned by a different bench of the HC. Another reason was some caste related entries were not produced by Thakar before the Scrutiny Committee, but that would not amount to suppressing material facts, the lawyers argued.

Third reason cited was that some of the caste related entries were discovered later on. The counsels submitted that the petitioner could not be blamed for any suppression of facts as a ruling by the Bombay HC said that failure to refer to old revenue records when the same could have been verified by the Scrutiny Committee during the earlier verification would not amount to fraud.

The counsels also argued that the Committee had erroneously concluded that there was variance between information given by the petitioner and his daughter about rituals and customs followed by them, and therefore the finding that the petitioner had failed the affinity test was not correct.

The counsel submitted, "Variance to some extent is bound to be there due to generation gap. While older people would have more knowledge about the customs and tradition of the family, the younger generation may not have so much of knowledge and, therefore, if any variance in two sets of information occurs, the same has to be seen as natural and not something which amounts to misrepresentation of the facts."

Lastly, the counsel argued that as per power conferred under section 7(2) of the Maharashtra Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, De-notified Tribes (Vimukta Jatis), Nomadic Tribes, Other Backward Category and Special Backward Category (Regulation of Issuance and Verification of) Caste Certificate Act, 2000 or any other provision of law, the Committee had no powers to review its own orders. He added that it can be done only under the extra-ordinary jurisdiction of the HC.

The bench, though, agreed with the petitioner's counsels on the argument that the basis on which the notices were issued did not exist and therefore they needed to be quashed, it deemed it fit to clarify that the Committee did have powers to review its orders in certain specified circumstances.

Case Title: Vishnu Rajaram Thakar Vs. State of Maharashtra,Through Its Secretary, Tribal Development Dept. and Anr.

Click Here To Read/Download Order


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