Bombay High Court rejects plea by MLA Latabai Sonawane against invalidation of ST Certificate

MUMBAI: In Latabai Maharu Koli vs The State of Maharashtra & Ors., Bombay High Court dismissed Shiv Sena MLA Latabai Sonawane’s challenge to a decision of the Scheduled Tribe Certificate Scrutiny Committee at Nandurbar, which had invalidated her claim of belonging to the Tokre Koli, a scheduled tribe (ST) community.

A bench headed by Justices SG Mehare and RD Dhanuka noted that records showed her father and sister as not belonging to the Tokre Koli caste.

“The petitioner’ father’s caste in his birth register is shown as “Koli”. It was a pre-independence entry. The revenue record in the name of her grandfather shows his caste as “Hindu”. As observed above, “Hindu” is not a caste. Her sisters’ caste in the School Leaving Certificates is also not shown as ‘Tokre Koli’,” the Court observed.

She was elected to the Jalgaon Municipal Corporation’s Scheduled Tribe reserved seat, and her caste certificate was sent to the scrutiny committee for validation. Meanwhile, she was elected to the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly from the Chopda constituency.

Later, she resigned from the post of the Corporation. However, her caste claim, registered after her proposal for validation after her election as Corporator, was pending. In the said case, the scrutiny committee had called for a vigilance report.

She was called upon to submit her explanation to the said report. However, instead of replying to the said report, she insisted on deciding on her application for withdrawal of the proposal. Since she did not file her reply, the scrutiny committee invalidated her claim by an order dated November 4, 2020.

She then challenged the committee’s decision before the Bombay High Court which on December 3, 2020 ordered her to resubmit the caste certificate granted by the competent authority, Sub Divisional Officer Amalner, within seven days before the scrutiny committee

The Court also directed to expedite the validation processes. Appeal against the same before the Supreme Court by respondents was dismissed.

In the meantime, BJP MLA Jagdishchandra Valvi filed an objection before the scrutiny committee over her stated caste.

The scrutiny committee concluded that there were entries contrary to the pre-independence entries that showed her blood relatives as belonging to Tokre Koli tribe. It, therefore, invalidated the caste certificate issued to her.

This was challenged before the High Court by Sonawane who contended that the committee had wrongly discarded the oldest entries that mentioned Tokre Koli caste and hadn’t assigned reasons for doing so.

The High Court observed that as per records, Koli was consistently shown against the names of her relatives.

“The record further reveals that there was contra evidence in the birth and death registers of her relatives. The ‘Koli’ caste has been consistently shown in the name of her father and grandfather. The school record of the petitioner and her sisters shows their caste as ‘Koli’, and it was not changed to date,” the Court said.


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