The Bombay High Court has quashed and set aside an order of the Caste Scrutiny Committee of Maharashtra Government which had invalidated the claim by Sunita Koli, a teacher, that she belonged to Koli Mahadev, a Scheduled Tribe.
Justices A A Sayed and Anoop Mohota, in a recent order, remitted the matter back to the Scrutiny Committee for 'de novo' (fresh) consideration.
The Judges, however, granted liberty to the Petitioner to apply before the Scrutiny Committee for adducing additional oral or documentary, if any, to prove that she belonged to Koli Mahadev caste.
The Court asked the petitioner to appear before the concerned Scrutiny Committee this month end. The Committee has been asked to fix the date and schedule of hearing and dispose of the matter as early as possible, preferably before September 19.
The Judges held that in case the Scrutiny Committee passed an adverse order, the same shall not be given effect for four weeks from the date it is communicated to the petitioner.
The Judges further noted that pending the decision of the Scrutiny Committee, the ad-interim order of the High Court dated February 15, 2013, granting protection in respect of the Petitioner's employment would continue to operate.
The petitioner is working as Shikshan Sevak in Pandit Vishnu Digambar Paluskar Multipurpose Education Society's Madhyamik Vidyalaya at Palus in Sangli district. By an ad-interim order, the High Court had earlier granted status quo in respect of Petitioner's employment.
Shikshan Sevaks are teachers who are appointed in the State-aided schools on modest salaries to overcome the shortage of funds required to employ regular teachers.
The Scrutiny Committee, on December 21, 2012, had rejected the claim of the petitioner stating that she had not been able to prove her affinity towards Koli Mahadev Scheduled Tribe.
The Judges noted that although the petitioner had produced a certificate issued by Scrutiny Committee, validating the caste claim of her brother belonging to Mahadev Koli Scheduled Tribe, yet her claim had been rejected.
The Committee did not assign any reason for rejecting the claim of the petitioner on the basis of her brother's certificate.
The Court observed, "Scrutiny Committee has not given any reasons as to why a departure has been made in the case of the Petitioner and the impugned order is silent on the aspect whether or not there has been a fraud or misrepresentation or even a mistake in the issuance of the Caste Validity Certificate to the brother of the Petitioner." "For all the reasons stated above, the entire approach of the Scrutiny Committee, in our view, is erroneous and the impugned order cannot be sustained. In our opinion, the matter is required to be remitted back to the Scrutiny Committee for consideration afresh," the bench noted.