SC Sets Aside Bombay HC Order Cancelling BJP Leader Navneet Kaur Rana’s Caste Certificate

Navneet Kaur Rana

The Supreme Court on Thursday reinstated the scheduled caste certificate of sitting Amravati MP Navneet Kaur Rana, providing significant last-minute relief and enabling her to contest the Maharashtra seat reserved for Dalits on a BJP ticket.

Delivering the verdict on the final day of nomination for the seat, the apex court overturned the 2021 Bombay High Court decision on a petition seeking the annulment of her caste certificate issued on August 30, 2013, by a Mumbai deputy collector, affirming her membership in the ‘Mochi’ caste.

Shiv Sena leader Anandrao Adsul had lodged a complaint with the Mumbai District Caste Certificate Scrutiny Committee, which subsequently ruled in Rana’s favor, validating her certificate. Adsul then pursued the matter in the high court, resulting in the cancellation of Rana’s caste certificate.

Adsul alleged that Rana acquired the certificate using forged documents, facilitated by her husband Ravi Rana, an MLA. Both the ‘Chamar’ and ‘Mochi’ castes are mentioned in Chapter 2 of “The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950.” ‘Chamar’ also appears in the notified scheduled castes list of Punjab.

Mochi is a sub-caste of the Chamar community primarily involved in the leather business, where Chamars process hides and Mochis produce leather products. Rana, who recently joined the BJP, previously 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 seat in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

In its June 8, 2021, order, the Bombay High Court imposed a fine of Rs 2 lakh on Rana, stating that records indicated she belonged to the ‘Sikh-Chamar’ caste. The High Court 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 ruled that the high court should not have intervened with the scrutiny committee’s report on her caste certificate.

Upholding the validity of Rana’s caste certificate, the Supreme Court stated, “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 announcing the operative part of the judgment.

A detailed judgment is awaited. Rana, who successfully contested the Amravati (SC) parliamentary seat in 2019, had declared her affiliation with the ‘Mochi’ caste in her election affidavit.

The Supreme Court had reserved its verdict on Rana’s appeal on February 28. The High Court had determined that Rana’s claim of belonging to the ‘Mochi’ caste to obtain the Scheduled Caste certificate was fraudulent and aimed at securing various benefits available to a candidate from such a category, despite her not belonging to that caste.

“The application (for caste certificate) was intentionally made 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 stated.

It had observed 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 highlighted that Rana’s original birth certificate did not mention her caste as ‘Mochi’.

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About the Author: Nunnem Gangte