In big relief for Amravati MP Navneet Kaur Rana, SC sets aside HC verdict cancelling her caste certificate

SC verdict clears the decks for Rana to contest the seat on a BJP ticket

 Navneet Kaur Rana Navneet Kaur Rana | PTI

The Supreme Court on Thursday restored the scheduled caste certificate of sitting Amravati MP Navneet Kaur Rana, in a huge last-miniute relief that cleared the decks for her to contest the Maharashtra seat reserved for dalits on a BJP ticket.

Pronouncing the order on the last day of nomination for the seat, the apex court set aside the 2021 Bombay High Court verdict on a plea seeking cancellation of her caste certificate dated August 30, 2013 issued by a Mumbai deputy collector who held she belonged to the 'Mochi' caste.

Shiv Sena leader Anandrao Adsul had filed a complaint with the Mumbai District Caste Certificate Scrutiny Committee, which had ruled in Rana's favour and validated the certificate. He had then approached the high court, which ordered cancellation of Rana's caste certificate.

Adsul had contended that Rana obtained the certificate using forged and fabricated documents that were acquired using the influence of her husband Ravi Rana, an MLA.

Both 'Chamar' and 'Mochi' castes figure in chapter 2 of "The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) order, 1950. The 'Chamar' caste also figures among the notified scheduled castes list of Punjab.

Mochi is a sub-caste of the Chamar community that deals with leather business. The Chamars usually process the hides, while the Mochis make leather products from them.

Rana, who joined the BJP some time ago, had won the Amravati Lok Sabha seat as an independent candidate backed by Sharad Pawar's NCP in 2019. She has been nominated by the BJP to contest the Lok Sabha polls from the seat this time.

In its order of June 8, 2021, the Bombay High Court had also imposed a fine of Rs 2 lakh on the Amravati MP, saying the records indicated that she belonged to the 'Sikh-Chamar' caste. A division bench of the high court had also directed her to surrender the certificate within six weeks

Allowing Rana's appeal against the HC order, a bench comprising justices JK Maheshwari and Sanjay Karol said the high court should not have interfered with the report of the scrutiny committee on her caste certificate.

Upholding the validity of the caste certificate issued to Rana, the top court said, "In the instant case, the scrutiny committee duly considered the documents before it and passed its decision complying with principles of natural justice.

"It did not merit any interference (by the Bombay High Court) under Article 226. In light of the discussions, the instant appeal stands allowed and the high court order is set aside," Justice Maheshwari said while reading out the operative part of the judgement.

A detailed judgement is awaited.

Rana, who successfully contested the Amravati (SC) parliamentary seat in 2019, had in her election affidavit said she belonged to the 'Mochi' caste.

The top court had reserved its verdict on Rana's appeal on February 28.

The high court had held that Rana's claim of belonging to the 'Mochi' caste for obtaining the Scheduled Caste certificate was fraudulent and made with the intention of securing various benefits available to a candidate from such a category despite knowing she does not belong to that caste.

"The application (for caste certificate) was made intentionally to make a fraudulent claim to enable the respondent no.3 (Rana) to contest the election for the post of Member of Parliament on a seat reserved for a Scheduled Castes candidate," the high court had said.

It had held that the order passed by the Scrutiny Committee was "totally perverse, without the application of mind, and contrary to the evidence on record".

The bench had noted that the original birth certificate of Rana did not mention her caste as 'Mochi'. 

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