The Bombay High Court on Friday dismissed Shiv Sena MLA Latabai Sonawane's plea challenging a decision of the Scheduled Tribe (ST) Certificate Committee that had dismissed her claim of belonging to the Tokre Koli, an ST community.
A division bench of Justices Ramesh D Dhanuka and Sanjay G Mehare observed that "the petitioner's father's caste in his birth register is shown as "Koli". It was a pre-Independence entry. The revenue record in the name of her grandfather shows his caste as "Hindu". "Hindu" is not a caste. Her sisters' caste in the school leaving certificates is also not shown as "Tokre Koli". The petitioner has no case that she, her sisters, father or grandfather has ever attempted to correct in their school record."
The petitioner was elected as a corporator for Jalgaon Municipal Corporation on ST reserved seat and her caste certificate was forwarded to the Committee for validation. In the interim, she contested in the 2019 Legislative Assembly election from the Chopda constituency and was elected. She then resigned from the corporator post. However, her caste claim, registered after her proposal for validation after her election as Corporator, was pending.
The committee sought a vigilance report and called Sonawane to submit her explanation to the said report. Instead of replying, she insisted on deciding on her application for withdrawal of the proposal. Since she did not file her reply, the scrutiny committee invalidated her claim on November 4, 2020.
The petitioner approached the High Court challenging the committee's decision, which ordered her to resubmit a caste certificate granted by a competent authority within seven days and ordered the validation process to be completed within four months. She then proceeded to challenge the High Court order before the Supreme Court, which dismissed her special leave petition on December 7, 2021, and directed the committee to decide on the proceedings within four months from the date of order. Meanwhile, the High Court also dismissed her plea seeking transfer of validation proceedings before the Nandurbar Committee.
The bench held that Sonawane "failed to prove" that she belongs to Tokre Koli tribe caste and impugned judgment by the committee is "well-reasoned order".
"The entries of the pre-independence era, if rebutted, cannot be given probative value. The presumption under section 90 of the Indian Evidence Act would also not help the petitioner for the reason that the strong evidence in rebuttal was available," it observed.
Thus, the Court refused to interfere in the matter and dismissed the petition.
Case Title: Latabai v. State of Maharashtra & Ors.
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Bom) 211