14 Aug 2023 2:46 PM GMT
The Supreme Court recently reiterated that no protection should be given to persons who secure public employment through false caste certificates. The Court set aside a judgment of the Orissa High Court which directed a public authority to consider reinstating an employee, who was found to have obtained employment in reserved post on the basis of a false certificate(Bhubaneswar...
The Supreme Court recently reiterated that no protection should be given to persons who secure public employment through false caste certificates. The Court set aside a judgment of the Orissa High Court which directed a public authority to consider reinstating an employee, who was found to have obtained employment in reserved post on the basis of a false certificate(Bhubaneswar Development Authority v. Madhumita Das & Ors).
The Court held that it is immaterial whether the caste certificate was submitted fraudulently or due to a genuine mistaken belief. Intent is of no consequence.
The Bench comprising Chief Justice of India Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud and Justice J B Pardiwala held “that granting protection to individuals who are ineligible for the post has a deleterious effect on good governance.”
The Court held that the said protection would allow an ineligible person to gain access to a scarce public resource, violate the rights of an eligible person, and perpetuate illegality by unduly bestowing benefits on an ineligible person.
In 1998, the first respondent obtained employment in the Bhubaneswar Development Authority against a post reserved for Scheduled Castes to which she was not entitled. In 2011, an enquiry was initiated against the employee regarding her caste status. She stated that though she was born into a Brahmin family, she acquired Scheduled Caste status following her marriage to a SC category person in 1993.
Therefore, the Tehsildar observed that the first respondent had misled the authority at the time of the grant of the caste certificate and cancelled her caste certificate. Thereafter, the disciplinary proceedings were commenced against her by issuing a memorandum of charges under the Orissa Civil Services (Classification, Control, and Appeal) Rules, 1962. In 2012, the disciplinary authority dismissed the first respondent from service and ordered to recover the salary which was paid to her.
When the matter went to the Single Judge of the High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, it observed that the first respondent did not obtain the caste certificate fraudulently. Therefore, while Single Judge upheld the cancellation of the caste certificate of the first respondent but it directed the appellant to consider her continuance in the post if the post was lying vacant. The Single Judge relied on Supreme Court judgments in Kavita Solunke v. State of Maharashtra (2012) 8 SCC 430 and Shalini v. New English High School (2013) 16 SCC 526.
Pursuant to this, when the State authority filed an appeal before the High Court Division bench, there was a delay of five hundred and sixty-four days. By its impugned judgment, the Division Bench declined to condone the delay, thus the present appeal.
At the outset, the delay was condoned as the State had explained in detail the steps taken to take necessary approvals to process the writ appeal. Besides this, the Court also observed that “declining to condone the delay, in this case, would have serious consequences of allowing an imposter to continue having the benefit of a reserved seat.” It further recorded:
“This is not just a matter of detriment to the State but to genuine aspirants to the reserved seat who would be ousted. We are of the considered view that the Division Bench ought to have condoned the delay in the facts of this case.”
Whether one can obtain SC status through marriage
Next, the Court considered the question whether the first respondent can claim SC status due to her marriage. Reference was made to Valsamma Paul v. Cochin University (1996) 3 SCC 545 and Anjan Kumar v. Union of India (2006) 3 SCC 257 which held that the condition precedent for granting a SC certificate is that one must suffer disabilities from where one belongs. The Court in this regard took into account the Tehsildar's report that the first respondent did not suffer any social disadvantages on account of her marriage.
The Court also noted that the decisions relied upon by the High Court have been overruled by the Supreme Court in Chairman and Managing Director, Food Corporation of India v. Jagdish Balaram Bahira, (2017) 8 SCC 670. In the case, the issue before the Court was whether protection should be granted to individuals who secure access to a reservation despite the fact that they do not belong to the reserved community. In the said decision, the Court had overruled Kavita Solunke (supra) and Shalini (supra) on the ground that it would be contrary to the express provision of the law to import the requirement of dishonest intention. Further, it also delved into the presence of criminal intent in prosecution for criminal offences vis a vis civil offences.
It was held inJagdish Balaram Bahira : “The intent of a candidate may be of relevance only if there is a prosecution for a criminal offence. However, where a civil consequence of withdrawing the benefits which have accrued on the basis of a false caste claim is in issue, it would be contrary to the legislative intent to import the requirement of a dishonest intent.”
Applying the same principle, the Court, in the present case, opined:
“The first respondent obtained employment against a post reserved for Scheduled Castes to which she was not entitled. The effect is to displace a genuine candidate, who would otherwise have been entitled to the post. No fault can be found with the conduct of the appellant in convening a disciplinary enquiry. The findings of the enquiry are unexceptionable. The punishment which was imposed could not be regarded as disproportionate. Irrespective of whether or not the caste claim of the first respondent was fraudulent or otherwise, it is evident that the benefit which she obtained of securing employment against a reserved post would have to be recalled once the caste claim has been rejected."
Therefore, in the aforenoted background, the Court set aside the judgment of the Single-judge. Notably, the Court directed that no recovery shall be made from the first respondent of the salary paid to her for the period for which she worked.
Case Title: Bhubaneswar Development Authority v. Madhumita Das & Ors, Civil Appeal No. 3320 of 2023
Citation : 2023 LiveLaw (SC) 644
Click here to read the judgment