The Bombay High Court has set aside a caste validity certificate issued to Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde in 2009 on the ground that the scrutiny committee in Maharashtra had not passed a reasoned order as required under the law.
The court, however, referred Shinde's case back to the Caste Scrutiny Committee which would decide on it afresh. The bench also directed Shinde to appear before the committee in March-end and asked the latter to decide his claim for issuance of a caste certificate as expeditiously as possible, preferably within two months from the date he appears before it. "We direct the caste scrutiny committee to hold an inquiry in accordance with law, if necessary, by calling for report of the Vigilance Cell," said the bench in a recent order.
The vigilance committee is expected to hold an inquiry by speaking to the family members, neighbours, community members and school authorities of the applicant/claimant. The court, however, made it clear that it was not making any adjudication on merits of the caste claim of Shinde. "All contentions on merits are kept open," it observed.
The order was passed by a bench headed by Justice Abhay Oka on a petition filed by Pramod Gaikwad who had challenged the caste certificate issued to Shinde, saying it was invalid in law.
Gaikwad's lawyer Helen Mandlik questioned the lack of mandatory reasoning in the caste certificate issued to Shinde by the scrutiny committee. She argued it was bad in law as guidelines had not been followed.
Disposing of the petition, the court agreed with Gaikwad and sent Shinde's caste claim files back to the scrutiny committee for considering it afresh. Satish Maneshinde, Shinde's counsel, argued a fresh inquiry may be ordered in a time-bound schedule. This plea was allowed by the court which asked the scrutiny committee to decide the claim within 60 days.