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Navneet Kaur Rana’s ‘other case’: HC quashed caste certificate, appeal pending in SC for 10 months

Independent MP from Amravati (reserved) seat had her Scheduled Caste certificate cancelled by Bombay HC last year. Supreme Court stayed order, but 8 hearings have been adjourned.

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New Delhi: It’s been one sticky situation after the other for former actor Navneet Kaur Rana, the controversial Independent MP from Amravati in Maharashtra who was arrested last month for announcing her intention to chant the Hanuman Chalisa outside Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s house.

A special court granted her bail in that case Wednesday, but Kaur is yet to get a hearing from the Supreme Court in another case, in which she appealed against the Bombay High Court’s cancellation of her Scheduled Caste certificate last year.

Navneet Kaur Rana was able to contest the 2019 Lok Sabha elections from Amravati, a reserved seat, because she had a certificate that declared her as belonging to the Mochi (cobbler) Scheduled Caste community.

The cancellation of her certificate by the HC on 8 June last year, therefore, came with serious implications: She would have to lose her seat in Parliament. Hence, the MP wasted no time in moving the top court on 17 June 2021.

In the nearly 10 months since then, the Supreme Court has given nine dates for the hearing. While the matter was taken up eight times so far, no arguments were advanced because the case got adjourned.

The matter is now listed for Thursday before Justice Vineet Saran’s bench, but a counsel appearing in the case told ThePrint that it is “unlikely” any hearing will take place. “Justice Saran is due to retire on 10 May. The matter will now be placed before a new bench,” the counsel said.

Also Read: Navneet & Ravi Rana — Maharashtra’s notorious political gymnasts who found love at Ramdev camp

‘High-priority’ case, but hearings in limbo

In an 8 June 2021 order, the Bombay High Court held that Navneet Kaur got her Scheduled Caste certificate “fraudulently validated” by producing “fabricated documents” before the Caste Scrutiny Committee.

Within days, Kaur appealed against this ruling to the Supreme Court, which gave the case priority since it would impact the MP’s position.

Despite being on summer break, the apex court heard the matter within five days of her knocking on its door.

On 22 June 2021, a bench led by Justice Saran stayed the HC order and prevented Kaur from losing her seat.

In this order, the SC bench, which also featured Justice Dinesh Maheshwari, gave one week to Navneet Kaur to serve a copy of her petition to the respondents.

Further, the court directed the parties in the matter to complete their pleadings in the case and listed it for a “final” hearing on 27 July 2021.

“Considering the facts and circumstances of the case, it is directed that the operation of the impugned judgement dated 8 June 2021 shall remain stayed. It is understood that on the next date of hearing, the matter itself may be heard finally,” the order said.

Since then, the apex court has taken up the matter on eight occasions — four in 2021 (27 July, 16 September, 6 October, 30 November) and four in 2022 (3 February, 23 February, 29 March, and 20 April).

On each date, the matter was adjourned. Orders uploaded on the apex court’s portal do not reveal the reason why the bench did not hear the appeal on the said dates. As noted earlier, Thursday’s scheduled hearing is unlikely to take place due to Justice Saran’s impending retirement.

However, Supreme Court registry officials told ThePrint, on the condition of anonymity, that the pleadings in the case got completed six months ago. On three dates — 27 July 2021, 20 November 2021 and 3 February 2022 — the case was adjourned with the consent of both sides.

How the ‘fake certificate’ imbroglio began

Navneet Kaur and her husband Ravi Rana have had a disputatious equation with Shiv Sena leaders well before the Hanuman Chalisa row.

The ‘fake certificate’ controversy, too, has a Shiv Sena link, and was bubbling well before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, in which Navneet Kaur won from the Amravati seat as an Independent candidate.

The matter gained serious momentum when veteran Shiv Sena leader Anandrao Adsul — who had defeated Kaur in the 2014 elections but lost out to her in 2019 — took up the cause.

In early 2018, Adsul and social worker Raju Mankar moved the Bombay High Court against a November 2017 order from the district Caste Certificate Scrutiny Committee (CCSC), which had validated Navneet Kaur’s certificate. The certificate had been issued by Mumbai’s deputy collector in August 2013.

Mankar had first accused Kaur in 2015 of obtaining the certificate on the basis of fake documents. He even filed a complaint before the CCSC to quash the caste certificate.

The committee rejected Mankar’s complaint, observing that once a validity certificate is issued, it cannot be withdrawn or cancelled, but the HC in June 2017 directed the CCSC to take a fresh decision in accordance with the law.

In the wake of the HC’s direction, the CCSC undertook a fresh review, and in November 2017, validated the caste certificate.

The CCSC relied on two documents to make its decision: A certificate issued by the Khalsa College of Arts, Science and Commerce, which mentioned Kaur’s grandfather’s caste as “Sikh Chamar”, and a rent agreement which corroborated this.

Adsul and Mankar, however, disputed the validity of these documents and took the matter to the Bombay High Court.

Why Bombay HC ‘cancelled’ the caste certificate

According to Adsul and Mankar, the CCSC had rejected a majority of the documents that Navneet Kaur had submitted to establish she belonged to a Scheduled Caste, except for the college certificate and rent agreement. However, even those were fabricated, they alleged, adding the committee ignored the Vigilance Cell’s doubts about the authenticity of the documents.

The petitioners claimed that Navneet Kaur had procured a fake Scheduled Caste certificate with the express purpose of contesting the reserved Amravati constituency. They even alleged that Kaur’s father was involved because he too adopted ‘fraudulent’ means to get a Scheduled Caste certificate so that his daughter could obtain one.

Navneet Kaur refuted the charges in the HC, which not just rejected her defence, but accused the “sloppy” CCSC for “shirking its responsibility”.

In a strongly worded 100-page verdict, the HC noted that Navneet Kaur’s father had made two attempts to get a Scheduled Caste certificate before the MP applied for one.

While his first application, made before Palghar tahsildar in July 2012, was rejected, the second, before the deputy collector in Mumbai in July 2013, was accepted.

In both instances, Kaur’s father had submitted a school-leaving certificate of Bombay Municipal Corporation Poisar Hindi School, Borivali, to claim that he belonged to the Mochi caste.

The HC observed, however, that the school-leaving certificate submitted in Mumbai was different from the one filed in Palghar. Also, the school that is said to have issued the certificate was not in existence at the time when he would have been a student there.

As far as the college certificate was concerned, the HC relied upon the Vigilance report that said it was a photocopy and the inquiry officer was not allowed to examine the college’s register to inspect the original.

On the rent agreement, the HC found it strange that the document prepared in 1932 mentioned Navneet Kaur’s grandfather’s caste as “Sikh Chamar” even when there was no requirement in law to do so.

The HC also noted a contradiction: While Navneet Kaur’s grandfather’s certificate said he was a “Sikh Chamar”, hers said she belonged to the Mochi caste.

Dismissing Kaur’s argument that both castes were synonymous, the HC held that “Sikh Chamar” was not in the state’s list of Scheduled Castes.

While the Supreme Court has now stayed the HC order, the matter is currently in limbo. A counsel appearing for Adsul said he expected the court to decide the matter expeditiously, particularly in view of its first order. “Unfortunately, we do not know why the court never heard us even once,” the lawyer said.

(Edited by Asavari Singh)

Also Read: A murder & long wait for justice: Why it took SC nearly 12 years to uphold one man’s life term



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