Apex court stays order on caste certificates,relief to candidates

The Supreme Court on Thursday stayed the Bombay High Court order asking returning officers for the upcoming civic elections to examine if caste certificates submitted by candidates have been validated by the state government’s vigilance cells.

Written by Express News Service | Mumbai | Published:February 3, 2012 5:43 am

The Supreme Court on Thursday stayed the Bombay High Court order asking returning officers for the upcoming civic elections to examine if caste certificates submitted by candidates have been validated by the state government’s vigilance cells. The decision will bring relief to several thousand candidates who had filed their nominations for elections to ten municipal corporations later this month.

Following the apex court’s oder,the State Election Commission has withdrawn its instructions requiring candidates to file personal affidavits stating their certificates were genuine in case of a dispute regarding the authenticity of the certificates.

The scrutiny of nominations for reserved wards will now be conducted on February 3. The final date for withdrawal of nominations is now February 4. Candidates will be allotted symbols on February 6.

On Wednesday,the Bombay High Court had said that the returning officer/Election Commission ought to examine at the time of scrutiny of nomination whether the caste validity certificate accompanying nomination forms had been issued by the scrutiny committee only after following the due procedure prescribed by the apex court.

The Bombay High Court had turned down the state government’s plea seeking a stay on the court’s order that those contesting the elections need to get their caste certificates validated by a state vigilance cell.

On Tuesday,while hearing a group of petitions filed by several candidates,Justices A M Khanwilkar and Nitin Jamdar noted that in some cases the Caste Scrutiny Committee (CSC) had issued a certificate to a candidate on the same day he had filed his application without calling for a report from the vigilance cell in the Social Justice Ministry.

The court said this was in contravention of a 1995 ruling of the Supreme Court in the Madhuri Patil case. The court observed that the vigilance cell’s report is “indispensable” and no caste certificate can be issued without following the procedure laid down by the apex court. “The returning officer/Election Commission ought to examine at the time of scrutiny of nomination as to whether the caste validity certificate accompanying the nomination form of the candidate concerned has been issued by the scrutiny committee after following the procedure prescribed by the apex court,” the court had said.

Seeking a stay on this directive,the state government had contended that there are about 1,254 seats in the 10 municipal corporations going to polls,among which 510 seats are reserved. Advocate General Ravindra Kadam had argued that the scrutiny of nominations commenced on Wednesday and was scheduled to be completed by Thursday. He added that this could mean that some wards may have no candidates from the reserved categories contesting the civic elections.

The court had observed that nearly 7,000 certificates had been issued by the CSC over the past few months,of which 6,300 had been issued without the vigilance cell’s report. Around 800 applications are pending and only in 3.49 per cent of cases,certificates have been issued after a vigilance cell inquiry. The court remarked that this was “disturbing”.

The State Election Commission (SEC),however,had submitted that it would ask the candidates to file personal affidavits stating that their certificates are genuine. The court said it had no objection if the SEC issues such instructions to returning officers.

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