Caste scrutiny panel has no power to reopen its past decisions of granting caste certificates: HC

The Bombay High Court has held the state Caste Scrutiny Committee does not have any power to suo motu verify past records, reopen its own past decisions and invalidate the caste validity certificates already granted.

A division bench of Justices G S Kulkarni and Jitendra Jain in an order passed on November 1 and made available on Friday, said the Caste Scrutiny Committee is not conferred with any jurisdiction under the law to review its own decisions.

It added that such an inherent power would lead to a “monumental uncertainty and absurdity” in the functioning of the committee as it can be at the “ipse dixit of the Caste Scrutiny Committee” to reopen concluded cases.

“This would lead to patent arbitrariness,” the court said.

The bench allowed 10 petitions filed by government employees assailing the suo motu orders passed by the Caste Scrutiny Committee last year invalidating the caste certificates issued to them between the period 1992 to 2005.

The petitioners belong to the Scheduled Tribes – Koli Mahadeo, Thakur and Thakar groups.

The high court in its order noted that a caste certificate granted to someone can be questioned only on a prima facie satisfaction of the high court.

“There cannot be a free hand or license to the Caste Scrutiny Committee to reopen concluded cases of validity being conferred by it by its earlier orders to be revisited or re-examined on a complaint or otherwise and review its orders,” the HC said.

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The bench said if the Committee had such inherent powers to review its own orders it would lead to “devastating consequences” as then the committee could form a subjective opinion and it would be without any restriction as to limitation (time).

“Thus, in our opinion, the Caste Scrutiny Committee, being a statutory body exercising quasi adjudicatory functions, would not have any jurisdiction to suo motu verify past records and initiate an action to reopen past decisions and invalidate the caste validity certificates already granted,” the HC said.

The bench quashed the orders passed by the committee last year invalidating the caste certificates granted to the 10 petitioners.

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