In an order that has sparked a fear of delay in the civic elections,the Bombay High Court on Wednesday turned down the state governments plea seeking a stay on the courts order that those contesting the polls need to get their caste certificates validated by a state vigilance cell.
The state government is,however,likely to challenge the order in the Supreme Court on Thursday.
On Tuesday,while hearing a group of petitions filed by several election candidates,Justice A M Khanwilkar and Justice 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 case of Madhuri Patil. The court observed that the vigilance cells 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 said.
Seeking a stay on this directive of the High Court,the state government contended that there are about 1,254 seats of 10 municipal corporations in the state where 510 seats are reserved. Advocate General Ravindra Kadam argued that the scrutiny of nominations commenced on Wednesday and is scheduled to be completed by Thursday.
As a result of this order,most nominations under the reserved categories may be rejected as the returning officer cannot examine all the nominations within two days,Kadam said. He added that this could also mean that some wards may have no candidates from the reserved categories contesting the civic elections.
The court observed that nearly 7,000 certificates had been issued by the CSC over the past few months of which 6,300 have been issued without the vigilance cells report. About 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,submitted that it will ask the candidates to file personal affidavits stating their certificates are genuine. The court said it had no objection if the SEC issues such instructions to returning officers.
The state government also stated that it will issue a circular to ensure that these certificates are not used for purposes other than the upcoming elections. The court said the burden will be on the election candidate to prove that his validity certificate is based on the vigilance report. Granting some concession to the candidates,the court also stated that a candidates caste certificate will be held genuine if his/her nearest relative has a validity certificate.
Extension for Scrutiny of forms
The State Election Commission has informed officials from the 10 municipal corporations that the scrutiny of forms for candidates from reserved category was extended by a day to February 2. State election commissioner Neela Satyanarayan said the court order would not affect the polling dates. Asked about the court verdict,Congress leaders admitted this was worrying and they hoped the government would be able to resolve it quickly to avoid any delay or uncertainty later. BJP leaders said they did not know the details of the verdict and the party was waiting to announce candidates for one ward in Mumbai for lack of a validity certificate.