June 06, 2018
Recently, the Supreme Court was confronted with a batch of petitions involving individuals who sought the benefit of public employment on the basis of a claim to belong to a beneficiary group which upon investigation was found to be invalid. In the case Managing Director FCI and Ors. v. Jagdish Balram Bahira and Ors., the Supreme Court has rendered an elaborate explanation of usurpation of constitutional benefits by persons who do not genuinely belong to beneficiary groups.
The crux of Apex Court’s ruling in the instant case is that when a person who does not belong to a caste, tribe or class for whom the reservation is meant, seeks to pass off as its member, such a stratagem constitutes a fraud on the Constitution. Public employment is a significant source of social mobility. Access to education opens the doors to secure futures. As a matter of principle, in the exercise of its constitutional jurisdiction, the court must weigh against an interpretation which will protect unjust claims over the just, fraud over legality and expediency over principle
The Court broadly discussed the following issues in the case:
Whether a person who has secured the benefit of public employment or admission to an educational institution on a reserved quota is entitled to retain the benefits obtained despite the invalidation of the claim to belong to the tribe or caste?
Whether there should be a retrospective application of withdrawal of benefits secured on the basis of a caste claim which has been found to be false?
Whether the dishonest intent is a requisite for withdrawal of benefits secured on the basis of a caste claim which has been found to be false?
While analyzing the aforesaid issues, the Supreme Court made reference to the plethora of judgments pronounced by the Court on the impugned issue. Some of the remarkable precedents referred to by the Court are enumerated below:
Kumari Madhuri Patil v. Additional Commissioner, Tribal Development, wherein the Court stressed the importance to scrutinize documents evidencing beneficial claims. The Court in the case had also formulated guidelines for setting up of Committees by State Governments to verify claims of candidates belonging to Scheduled castes/tribes. The Court in the case had categorically stated that in case, the certificate obtained or social status claimed is found to be false, the parent/guardian/the candidate should be prosecuted for making a false claim. If the prosecution ends in a conviction and sentence of the accused, it could be regarded as an offence involving moral turpitude, disqualification for elective posts or offices under the State or the Union or elections to any local body, legislature or Parliament.
The Court in the case further issued the direction that as soon as the finding is recorded by the Scrutiny Committee holding that the certificate obtained was false, on its cancellation and confiscation simultaneously, it should be communicated to the educational institution concerned or the appointing authority by registered post with acknowledgement due with a request to cancel the admission or the appointment. The Principal etc. of the educational institution responsible for making the admission or the appointing authority, should cancel the admission/appointment without any further notice to the candidate and debar the candidate from further study or continue in office in a post.
The Court while delivering its judgment in the case also made reference to the Halba/Halbi controversy. The Halba/Halbi controversy was adjudged by the Court in the case of State of Maharashtra v. Milind Katware, wherein the basic issue confronted by the Apex Court was whether a subdivision of a tribe which is not mentioned in the Scheduled Tribes Order, 1950 is nevertheless a part and parcel of a tribe which is designated? The Constitution Bench held that the Scheduled Tribes Order had to be read as it is, and no evidence could be let in to urge that a tribe or tribal community or its part constituted a part of a tribe which was specifically designated. The Apex Court in the case opined that if these benefits are taken away by those for whom they are not meant, the people for whom they are really meant or intended will be deprived of the same and their sufferings will continue. Allowing the candidates not belonging to Scheduled tribes to have the benefits or advantage of reservation either in admissions or appointments leads to making a mockery of the very reservation against the mandate and the scheme of the Constitution.”
In view of the guidelines penned by the Court in Madhuri Patil case, the Maharashtra legislature enacted the Maharashtra Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, De-Notified Tribes (Vimukta Jatis), Nomadic Tribes, Other Backward Classes and Special Backward Category (Regulation of Issuance and Verification of) Caste Certificate Act, 2000.The Legislation led to the establishment of a statutory framework covering the area from the issuance of caste/tribe certificates and traversing the scrutiny and verification ofcaste/tribe claims and withdrawal of benefits accrue upon a false claim. The legislation also provided for stringent penalties against violators by creating a regime of criminaloffences punishable at law.
With reference to the issue whether a candidate who has been long in service can be terminated from services on account of false and fabricated caste claim, the Court referred to the case of R. Vishwanath Pillai v. State of Kerala, wherein the appellant who had completed 27 years of service sought protection from termination pursuant to the discovery of fact that on the basis of forged caste certificate he had claimed to belong to a designated reserved community. The Court while upholding High Court’s order of appellant’s termination from service stated that this apart, the appellant obtained the appointment in the service on the basis that he belonged to a Scheduled Caste community. When it was found by the Scrutiny Committee that he did not belong to the Scheduled Caste community, then the very basis of his appointment was taken away. His appointment was no appointment in the eyes of law. He cannot claim a right to the post as he had usurped the post meant for a reserved candidate by playing a fraud and producing a false caste certificate.
The Court at length discussed the proposition as laid down by the Supreme Court in the cases of Kavita Vasant Solunke Vs. State of Maharashtra and Shalini Gajananrao Dalal v. New English High School Association. In these case, the Court ruled that candidates who honestly and correctly claimed to belong to a particular Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe but were later on found by the relevant authority not to fall within the particular group envisaged for protected treatment would not be negated of the benefits already enjoyed by them and would continue in service. However, such candidates would be disentitled to claim any further or continuing benefit on the predication of belonging to the said Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe.
The Apex Court in the instant case overruled the aforesaid finding of the Court and stated that the principles as settled in Kavita Solunke and Shalini case were not correct and might lead to serious consequences.
 (1994) 6 SCC 241
 (2001)1 SCC 4
 (2004)2 SCC 105
 (2012)8 SCC 430
 (2013)16 SCC 526