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Caste Certificate Can't Be Denied Saying Claimant's Lifestyle Does Not Match Traditional Community Traits; Affinity Test Not The Litmus Test : Bombay High Court

Sharmeen Hakim
23 Feb 2022 5:31 AM GMT
Caste Certificate Cant Be Denied Saying Claimants Lifestyle Does Not Match Traditional Community Traits; Affinity Test Not The Litmus Test : Bombay High Court
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Observing that affinity test is not the litmus test for a Caste Validity Certificate when family members' documents from as far back as the year 1927 show the same caste, the Bombay High Court directed issuance of caste certificate to the petitioner before the court. "In our view, if any one claims he belongs to particular caste, one cannot expect that such person should use traditions and...

Observing that affinity test is not the litmus test for a Caste Validity Certificate when family members' documents from as far back as the year 1927 show the same caste, the Bombay High Court directed issuance of caste certificate to the petitioner before the court.

"In our view, if any one claims he belongs to particular caste, one cannot expect that such person should use traditions and traits of that community in his day to day life, as due to modernisation, the present lifestyle of particular community may not match with traditional characteristics of their tribe community. The affinity test is not a litmus test," a division bench of Justices SV Gangapurwala and SG Dige of the Aurangabad Bench ruled recently.
The bench, by the abovementioned observation, also negated the Caste Scrutiny Committee's observations that the petitioners dialect of 'impure Marathi' was differed from the Thakur community's dialect. Moreover, the petitioner's festival and marriage rituals were performed the Hindu way instead of the traditional Thakur community way.
The bench was hearing a petition filed by a 28-year old student Saurabh Nikam against a December 15, 2021 decision of the Scheduled Tribes Scrutiny Committee, Aurangabad Division, Aurangabad invalidating his claim of belonging to "Thakur, Scheduled Tribe community."
According to Nikam, his caste certificate was referred by the college to the Scrutiny Committee for verification. The committee, after referring the case to the Vigilance Cell for an inquiry, rejected his claim of belonging to the community that he claimed to be a part of.
Nikam had submitted caste validity certificates of his real brother as well as a cousin brother and a cousin sister, showing the same caste. The Scrutiny committee, however, rejected Nikam's certificate on three grounds – documentary evidence not enough; claim not proved through certificates issued to his close blood relatives; and he failed to prove his affinity to the community in the affinity test.
According to Nikam's lawyer's submissions, the Scrutiny Committee overlooked documentary evidence from 1337 Fasli (590 years behind the Gregorian Calendar, therefore, year 1927) showing the social status of Nikam's family as Thakur, Scheduled Tribe. It was also argued that the Vigilance Cell officers intentionally did not collect the proper evidence, which showed Nikam belonged to Thakur Scheduled Tribe and the Scrutiny Committee discarded the evidentiary value of certificates of Nikam's close relatives.
"These certificates of validities have been granted by this Court that too after considering all aspects but it was not considered by the Scrutiny Committee," Nikam's lawyers submitted before the HC, referring to the caste certificates of petitioner's close relatives.
As per a chart showing documents submitted by Nikam before the Committee, and accepted by the HC bench, the oldest entry was that of the petitioner's grandfather Trambak Shenphadu of 1337 Fasli (year 1927) showing his caste as "Thakur". Another entry was from the year 1957 of one of Nikam's uncles and the next entry was from July 1958 of another uncle of Nikam.
The Scrutiny Committee, based in the Vigilance Cells' report, observed that there were "contra-entries" of Maratha and Bhat mentioned in the school record of Nikam's another set of close blood relatives. The court, however, observed that the Scrutiny Committee had validated the tribe claim of those relatives after following due procedure of law and after considering the "contra evidence." The court observed that these were "isolated entries" and they were NIkam's distant relatives.
The Scrutiny Committee also observed that it appeared from the education background of petitioner's that they belonged to upper caste Thakur and not the Scheduled Tribe Thakur. It also observed that the original place of residence of the petitioner was not from the Scheduled Area for Thakur, Scheduled Tribe or family of the petitioner had not migrated from the Scheduled area for Thakur, Scheduled Tribe. Lastly, the committee held that the petitioner had failed in the affinity test as well.
One of the observations by the Committee was that surnames of petitioner's close blood relatives do not match with "Thakur" community. The HC, however, observed that 33 caste validities had been issued to the petitioner's close blood relatives considering all aspects including the surnames. "Moreover surname cannot depict any one's caste," the HC observed and allowed Nikam's petition.
Case Title: Saurabh Ashok Nikam vs State of Maharashtra
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Bom) 48

Click Here To Read/Download Judgment


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