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caste certificate = Committee cannot gather evidence on its own to prove or disprove his claim. 20. Having examined the present case on the touchstone of the aforesaid broad parameters, we are of the opinion that the claim of the appellant has not been examined properly. We feel that the documentary evidence produced by the appellant in support of his claim had been lightly brushed aside by the Vigilance Officer as also by the Caste Scrutiny Committee. Insofar as the High Court is concerned, it has rejected the claim solely on the basis of the affinity test. It is pertinent to note that some of these documents date back to the pre- Independence era, issued to appellant’s grandfather and thus, hold great probative value as there can be no reason for suppression of facts to claim a non-existent benefit to the `Halbi’ Scheduled Tribe at that point of time. From the documents produced by the appellant, it appears that his near paternal relatives had been regarded as belonging to the `Halbi’ Scheduled Tribe. The Vigilance Officer’s report does not indicate that the documents produced by the appellant in support of his claim are false. It merely refers to the comments made by the Head Master with reference to the school records of appellant’s father’s maternal brother and his aunt, which had been alleged to be tampered with, to change the entry from Koshti Halba to Halba and 15 nothing more. Neither the Head Master was examined, nor any further enquiry was conducted to verify the veracity of Head Master’s statement. It is of some importance to note at this juncture that in similar cases, involving appellant’s first cousin and his paternal uncle, the High Court, while observing non-application of mind by the Caste Scrutiny Committee, had decided a similar claim in their favour. We are convinced that the documentary evidence produced by the appellant was not examined and appreciated in its proper perspective and the High Court laid undue stress on the affinity test. Thus, the decision of the Caste Scrutiny Committee to cancel and confiscate the caste certificate as well as the decision of the High Court, affirming the said decision is untenable. We are, therefore, of the opinion that the claim of the appellant deserves to be re-examined by the Caste Scrutiny Committee. For the view we have taken on facts in hand, we deem it unnecessary to refer to the decisions cited at the bar. 21. Resultantly, the appeal is allowed; the decisions of Caste Scrutiny Committee and the High Court are set aside and the case is remitted back to the Caste Scrutiny Committee for fresh consideration in accordance with the relevant rules and the aforesaid broad guidelines.

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REPORTABLE


 IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

 CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

 CIVIL APPEAL NO. 6340 OF 2004

 ANAND -- APPELLANT

 VERSUS

 COMMITTEE FOR SCRUTINY & -- RESPONDENTS

 VERIFICATION OF TRIBE CLAIMS & ORS.

 JUDGMENT

D.K. JAIN, J.:

1. This appeal is directed against the judgment of the High Court of 

 Judicature at Bombay, Nagpur Bench, delivered on 5th May 2004, 

 in W.P. No.1687 of 2004. By the impugned judgment, the High Court 

 has affirmed the order passed by the Committee for Scrutiny and 

 Verification of Tribe Claims, Amravati, (for short "the Caste Scrutiny 

 Committee"), respondent No.1 in this appeal, cancelling the caste 

 certificate dated 2nd January, 2002, issued to the appellant by the Sub-

 Divisional Magistrate, Pusad, District Yavatmal, certifying that the 

 appellant belongs to the `Halbi' Scheduled tribe, notified in terms of 

 the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950. 

2. Succinctly put, the material facts giving rise to the present appeal are 

 as follows:

 The appellant, who holds a degree of Bachelor of Engineering (BE), 

was appointed as a field officer by the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board, 

respondent No.2 herein, against a post reserved for "Scheduled Tribe", on 

probation with effect from 16th March, 1998. The appointment was subject 

to production of the Caste Validity Certificate. On a failure to produce the 

same, respondent No.2 issued a notice of termination of service to the 

appellant. Aggrieved thereby, the appellant approached the High Court by 

way of W.P. No. 4688 of 2003 inter alia, praying for a direction to 

respondent No.1 to decide the caste claim of the appellant. The High Court 

allowed the writ petition and vide order dated 2nd December 2003, directed 

respondent No.1 to decide the caste claim of the appellant within eight 

weeks of the date of receipt of the copy of the order. Respondent No.2 was 

also directed not to act upon the termination notice. 

3. In furtherance of the said order, the appellant made an application to 

 the Caste Scrutiny Committee under Rule 11 of the Maharashtra 

 Scheduled Tribes (Regulation of Issuance and Verification of) 

 Certificate Rules, 2003 (for short "the Rules"). Along with the 

 application, the appellant submitted several documents, including a 

 copy of his grandfather's school leaving certificate dated 8th April, 

 2

 1929; a copy of school leaving certificate dated 6th July, 1955, issued 

 to his father, Nilkantha Maruti Katole; a caste certificate issued to his 

 father on 19th June, 1969; copies of the school leaving certificates 

 issued to the appellant on 8th May, 1978, 5th July, 1988 and 9th August, 

 1983; a college leaving certificate dated 9th July, 1990 and a copy of 

 school leaving certificate issued to the real brother of his grandfather 

 on 21st June, 1933 etc. All these documents recorded the Caste of 

 those persons as `Halbi'.

4. Not being satisfied with the documentary evidence produced by the 

 appellant, the Caste Scrutiny Committee forwarded the application to 

 the Vigilance Cell in terms of Rule 12(2) of the Rules for conducting 

 school, home and other enquiry. The Vigilance Officer interviewed 

 the appellant, collected information about the characteristics of his 

 caste, which included information in relation to his family's ancestral 

 profession; mother tongue; family idols and deities etc. and also 

 verified the school records of his relatives. On the basis of the 

 information so collected, the Vigilance Officer submitted its report 

 inter alia, reporting that the characteristics, as noticed during enquiry 

 did not resemble that of `Halbi' Scheduled Tribe. In so far as the 

 documentary evidence was concerned, referring to the school record 

 of the maternal brother of his father and aunt of the appellant, which 

 3

 showed that as on 13th June, 1958 and 1st June, 1953, their caste was 

 recorded as `Koshti (which is scored off) Halba' (Koshti), the 

 Vigilance Officer submitted a report unfavourable to the appellant. 

 The Vigilance Cell found that the appellant was a member of `Halbi' 

 sub-caste of the `Koshti' caste but does not belong to `Halbi' 

 Scheduled Tribe.

5. A copy of the report of Vigilance Cell was supplied to the appellant by 

 the Caste Scrutiny Committee and personal hearing was also granted. 

 By order dated 20th March, 2004, the Caste Scrutiny Committee came 

 to the conclusion that the appellant does not belong to `Halbi' 

 Scheduled Tribe. The caste certificate issued by the Competent 

 Authority, viz. the Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Pusad, Distt. Yavatmal, 

 was thus, cancelled and confiscated by the Caste Scrutiny Committee, 

 inter alia observing as follows:-

 "B. The documents quoted at Sr. No. 2, 4, 5, 6, 13, 26, 28 & 

 33 are school records in respect of relative of the candidate in 

 which Caste is recorded as Halbi. In view of enquiry report, 

 documents collected by enquiry office and affinity test these 

 documents are rejected.

 G. The document quoted at Sr. No.17,19,21, 22, 23, 24 & 34 

 are the Xerox copies of validity certificates in respect of 

 relatives of the candidate. The ratio of this Validity Certificate 

 cannot be given to the candidate because the concerned person 

 at that time may have deliberately suppressed to bring 

 information now found out by the Inquiry Officer. Thus where 

 there is material suppression of facts, ratio of such order cannot 

 be applied to other. As directed by the Hon'ble Supreme 

 4

 Court, each and every case should be decided on its own. 

 Hence in the light of Vigilance Cell Report, this document is 

 rejected.

 xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx

 xxxxx

 11. The candidate's mother tongue is Marathi which is not so 

 in Halbi, Scheduled Tribe. The Surnames of relatives from 

 their community are reported as Katole, Parate, Naike, Dhakte, 

 Sorate, Nandarwar, Kumbhare etc. These surnames are not 

 associated with the people belonging to Halbi, Scheduled Tribe. 

 The information about family & community deities do not 

 resemble with Halbi, Scheduled Tribe. The marital ceremonies, 

 ceremonies observed after birth, rites performed after death, 

 customary dances, great personalities within their community 

 etc. as stated do not resemble with that of Halbi, Scheduled 

 Tribe. Thus, in view of this information, candidate failed to 

 establish his affinity towards Halbi Scheduled Tribe."

6. It is manifest that the claim of the appellant was rejected mainly on the 

 ground that he had failed to establish his affinity towards `Halbi' 

 Scheduled Tribe.

7. Being aggrieved with the said order, the appellant once again 

 approached the High Court by preferring W.P. No.1687 of 2004. As 

 aforesaid, the High Court vide impugned judgment upheld the order of 

 Caste Scrutiny Committee, observing thus : 

 "In so far as the documents are concerned, it is true that most 

 of the documents on which reliance is placed by the petitioner 

 do (sic) state the caste as Halbi but that by itself is not 

 sufficient to uphold the caste claim of the petitioner unless the 

 petitioner is able to establish his ethnic linkage with the so-

 called Scheduled Tribe. The Research Officer and Member of 

 the Caste Scrutiny Committee interviewed the petitioner on 

 5

 these aspects and it was found that the petitioner was not able 

 to satisfy the Scrutiny Committee on this aspect of the matter. 

 The particulars furnished by the petitioner claiming to be 

 belonging to caste Halbi Scheduled Tribe do not match with 

 the characteristics, traits, customs, ethnic linkage on 

 anthropological enquiry into the caste status of the petitioner. 

 Therefore, though the petitioner is in possession of certain 

 documents even of prior to the Presidential notification 

 showing the caste claim of his relatives as Halbi, the same are 

 not enough to certify him as belonging to caste Halbi 

 Scheduled Tribe. In the order, it has been observed by the 

 Scrutiny Committee that in some parts of Vidarbha the old 

 M.P. Region, in old records the Sub Caste Halbi of the caste 

 Koshti is recorded as Halbi which is popularly known as 

 Halba Koshti and, therefore, this cannot be treated as such."

8. Thus, according to the High Court also, unless an applicant establishes 

 his ethnic linkage with a Scheduled Tribe, his caste claim cannot be 

 accepted merely on the strength of documentary evidence.

9. Hence the present appeal.

10. Assailing the impugned judgment, Mr. V.A. Mohta, learned senior 

 counsel, appearing on behalf of the appellant, strenuously contended 

 that the report of the Vigilance Cell, on which the Caste Scrutiny 

 Committee had placed heavy reliance, was vitiated because they failed 

 to take into consideration the vital documents, which included school 

 leaving certificate relating to appellant's grand-father issued in the 

 year 1929. According to the learned counsel, these documents clearly 

 show that the appellant belongs to the Scheduled Tribe `Halbi'. It was 

 urged that the High Court also fell into the same error by ignoring 

 6

 these documents and by solely applying the affinity test. Drawing 

 support from the decision of this Court in Sayanna Vs. State of 

 Maharashtra & Ors.1, learned counsel submitted that in the light of 

 the documents showing that all the close relatives of the appellant 

 were treated as belonging to `Halbi' Scheduled Tribe, appellant's 

 claim could not be negatived on the sole ground that he did not 

 possess the basic characteristics, knowledge of customs and culture of 

 the said tribe. In aid of the proposition that probative value of all the 

 documents ought to have been taken into consideration by the Caste 

 Scrutiny Committee as also the High Court, reliance was placed on the 

 decision of this Court in Gayatrilaxmi Bapurao Nagpure Vs. State of 

 Maharashtra & Ors.2.

11. Per contra, learned counsel appearing on behalf of the Caste Scrutiny 

 Committee, supporting the decision of the High Court, submitted that 

 in the light of the dictum of this Court in Kumari Madhuri Patil & 

 Anr. Vs. Addl. Commissioner, Tribal Development & Ors.3, neither 

 the Caste Scrutiny Committee nor the High Court committed any error 

 or illegality in relying upon the affinity test for invalidating the claim 

 of the appellant. It was asserted that having regard to the findings by 

 the Caste Scrutiny Committee, which in turn, were based on Vigilance 

1 (2009) 10 SCC 268

2 (1996) 3 SCC 685

3 (1994) 6 SCC 241

 7

 Cell's report, which took into account the ethnological perspective, the 

 impugned judgment cannot be faulted with. 

12. Thus, the question that falls for consideration is what parameters are 

 to be applied in determining whether an applicant belongs to a notified 

 Scheduled Tribe?

13. Article 342 of the Constitution of India empowers the President of 

 India to specify the tribes or tribal communities or parts or groups 

 within them which shall for the purposes of the Constitution be 

 deemed to be Scheduled Tribes in relation to a State or a Union 

 Territory, as the case may be. Under clause (2) of Article 342, the 

 power to include in or exclude from the lists of Scheduled Tribes 

 specified in a notification, issued under clause (1) of Article 342 of the 

 Constitution, vests in the Parliament. In exercise of the powers 

 conferred by Article 342 of the Constitution, the President issued an 

 order, called the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950. This 

 was followed by the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Order 

 (Amendment) Act, 1956. In the year 1976, the Parliament enacted the 

 Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Order (Amendment) Act, 

 1976. Part IX of the Third Schedule to the Amending Act specifies 

 Scheduled Tribes for the State of Maharashtra. One of the Scheduled 

 Tribes so specified therein is "Halba", "Halbi". 

 8

14. In Kumari Madhuri Patil (supra), this Court took note of the fact that 

 the benefit of reservation of seats in educational institutions, and other 

 appointments were being denied to the genuine tribals on the basis of 

 false caste certificates. Terming such caste claims as "pseudo status", 

 the Court observed that spurious tribes had become a threat to the 

 genuine tribals. Emphasising the need to ensure that the benefit of 

 reservation must be made available only to genuine persons, who 

 belong to the notified caste or tribe, the Court said that such claims 

 should be judged on legal and ethnological basis. Highlighting the 

 relevance of affinity test while considering a caste claim, the Court 

 observed thus: 

 "The anthropological moorings and ethnological kinship 

 affirmity (sic) gets genetically ingrained in the blood and no 

 one would shake off from past, in particular, when one is 

 conscious of the need of preserving its relevance to seek the 

 status of Scheduled Tribe or Scheduled Caste recognised by 

 the Constitution for their upliftment in the Society. The 

 ingrained Tribal traits peculiar to each tribe and 

 anthropological features all the more become relevant when 

 the social status is in acute controversy and needs a decision. 

 The correct projectives furnished in pro forma and the 

 material would lend credence and give an assurance to 

 properly consider the claims of the social status and the 

 officer or authority concerned would get an opportunity to 

 test the claim for social status of particular caste or tribe or 

 tribal community or group or part of such caste, tribe or 

 tribal community. It or he would reach a satisfactory 

 conclusion on the claimed social status."

 9

15. Again in Director of Tribal Welfare, Government of A.P. Vs. Laveti 

 Giri & Anr.4, while reiterating the guidelines laid down in Kumari 

 Madhuri Patil (supra), this Court observed that it was high time that 

 the Government of India should have the matter examined in greater 

 detail and bring about a uniform legislation with necessary guidelines 

 and rules prescribing penal consequences on persons who flout the 

 Constitution and corner the benefits reserved for the real tribals, etc., 

 so that the menace of fabricating records to gain unconstitutional 

 advantages could be prevented.

16. In the light of the aforesaid observations, the State of Maharashtra 

 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 (for short "the Act'). The 

 Act made statutory provisions for verification and scrutiny of caste 

 claims by the Competent Authority and subsequently by the Caste 

 Scrutiny Committee. In exercise of its rule making power under the 

 Act, the State notified the Rules laying down a complete procedure for 

 obtaining and verification of Scheduled Tribes Certificate. Therefore, 

 insofar as the State of Maharashtra is concerned, the verification and 

 grant and/or rejection of Scheduled Tribe Certificate by the Caste 

4 (1995) 4 SCC 32

 10

 Scrutiny Committee has to be as per the procedure prescribed in the 

 Rules. 

17. Rule 11(2) enumerates a list of documents to be filed along with the 

 application to the Caste Scrutiny Committee. Rule 12 prescribes the 

 procedure to be followed by the Caste Scrutiny Committee on receipt 

 of such application in the prescribed format. It provides that if the 

 Caste Scrutiny Committee is not satisfied with the documentary 

 evidence produced by the applicant, it shall forward the application to 

 the Vigilance Cell for conducting the school, home and other enquiry. 

 Sub-rule (3) of Rule 12 requires the Vigilance Officer to visit the local 

 place of residence and the original place from where the applicant 

 hails and usually resides. The rules further stipulate that the Vigilance 

 Officer shall personally verify and collect all the facts about the social 

 status claimed by the applicant or his parents or guardians, as the case 

 may be. He is also required to examine the parents or the guardians or 

 the applicant for the purpose of verification of their tribe. It is evident 

 that the scope of enquiry by the Vigilance Officer is broad-based and 

 is not confined only to the verification of documents filed by the 

 applicant with the application or the disclosures made therein. 

 Obviously, the enquiry, supposed to be conducted by the Vigilance 

 Officer, would include the affinity test of the applicant to a particular 

 11

 tribe to which he claims to belong. In other words, an enquiry into the 

 kinship and affinity of the applicant to a particular Scheduled Tribe is 

 not alien to the scheme of the Act and the Rules. In fact, it is relevant 

 and germane to the determination of social status of an applicant. We 

 are of the view that for the purpose of examining the caste claim under 

 the Rules, the following observations of this Court in Kumari 

 Madhuri Patil (supra), still hold the field:-

 "...The vigilance officer should personally verify and 

 collect all the facts of the social status claimed by the 

 candidate or the parent or guardian, as the case may be. 

 He should also examine the school records, birth 

 registration, if any. He should also examine the parent, 

 guardian or the candidate in relation to their caste etc. or 

 such other persons who have knowledge of the social 

 status of the candidate and then submit a report to the 

 Directorate together with all particulars as envisaged in 

 the pro forma, in particular, of the Scheduled Tribes 

 relating to their peculiar anthropological and ethnological 

 traits, deity, rituals, customs, mode of marriage, death 

 ceremonies, method of burial of dead bodies etc. by the 

 castes or tribes or tribal communities concerned etc."

18. It is manifest from the afore-extracted paragraph that the genuineness 

 of a caste claim has to be considered not only on a thorough 

 examination of the documents submitted in support of the claim but 

 also on the affinity test, which would include the anthropological and 

 ethnological traits etc., of the applicant. However, it is neither feasible 

 nor desirable to lay down an absolute rule, which could be applied 

 12

mechanically to examine a caste claim. Nevertheless, we feel that the 

following broad parameters could be kept in view while dealing with a 

caste claim:

 (i) While dealing with documentary evidence, 

 greater reliance may be placed on pre-

 Independence documents because they furnish 

 a higher degree of probative value to the 

 declaration of status of a caste, as compared to 

 post-Independence documents. In case the 

 applicant is the first generation ever to attend 

 school, the availability of any documentary 

 evidence becomes difficult, but that ipso facto 

 does not call for the rejection of his claim. In 

 fact the mere fact that he is the first generation 

 ever to attend school, some benefit of doubt in 

 favour of the applicant may be given. Needless 

 to add that in the event of a doubt on the 

 credibility of a document, its veracity has to be 

 tested on the basis of oral evidence, for which 

 an opportunity has to be afforded to the 

 applicant;

 (ii) While applying the affinity test, which focuses 

 on the ethnological connections with the 

 scheduled tribe, a cautious approach has to be 

 adopted. A few decades ago, when the tribes 

 were somewhat immune to the cultural 

 development happening around them, the affinity 

 13

 test could serve as a determinative factor. 

 However, with the migrations, modernisation and 

 contact with other communities, these 

 communities tend to develop and adopt new traits 

 which may not essentially match with the 

 traditional characteristics of the tribe. Hence, 

 affinity test may not be regarded as a litmus test 

 for establishing the link of the applicant with a 

 Scheduled Tribe. Nevertheless, the claim by an 

 applicant that he is a part of a scheduled tribe and 

 is entitled to the benefit extended to that tribe, 

 cannot per se be disregarded on the ground that 

 his present traits do not match his tribes' peculiar 

 anthropological and ethnological traits, deity, 

 rituals, customs, mode of marriage, death 

 ceremonies, method of burial of dead bodies etc. 

 Thus, the affinity test may be used to corroborate 

 the documentary evidence and should not be the 

 sole criteria to reject a claim. 

19. Needless to add that the burden of proving the caste claim is upon the 

 applicant. He has to produce all the requisite documents in support of 

 his claim. The Caste Scrutiny Committee merely performs the role of 

 verification of the claim and therefore, can only scrutinise the 

 documents and material produced by the applicant. In case, the 

 material produced by the applicant does not prove his claim, the 

 14

 Committee cannot gather evidence on its own to prove or disprove his 

 claim.

20. Having examined the present case on the touchstone of the aforesaid 

 broad parameters, we are of the opinion that the claim of the appellant 

 has not been examined properly. We feel that the documentary 

 evidence produced by the appellant in support of his claim had been 

 lightly brushed aside by the Vigilance Officer as also by the Caste 

 Scrutiny Committee. Insofar as the High Court is concerned, it has 

 rejected the claim solely on the basis of the affinity test. It is pertinent 

 to note that some of these documents date back to the pre-

 Independence era, issued to appellant's grandfather and thus, hold 

 great probative value as there can be no reason for suppression of facts 

 to claim a non-existent benefit to the `Halbi' Scheduled Tribe at that 

 point of time. From the documents produced by the appellant, it 

 appears that his near paternal relatives had been regarded as belonging 

 to the `Halbi' Scheduled Tribe. The Vigilance Officer's report does 

 not indicate that the documents produced by the appellant in support 

 of his claim are false. It merely refers to the comments made by the 

 Head Master with reference to the school records of appellant's 

 father's maternal brother and his aunt, which had been alleged to be 

 tampered with, to change the entry from Koshti Halba to Halba and 

 15

 nothing more. Neither the Head Master was examined, nor any further 

 enquiry was conducted to verify the veracity of Head Master's 

 statement. It is of some importance to note at this juncture that in 

 similar cases, involving appellant's first cousin and his paternal uncle, 

 the High Court, while observing non-application of mind by the Caste 

 Scrutiny Committee, had decided a similar claim in their favour. We 

 are convinced that the documentary evidence produced by the 

 appellant was not examined and appreciated in its proper perspective 

 and the High Court laid undue stress on the affinity test. Thus, the 

 decision of the Caste Scrutiny Committee to cancel and confiscate the 

 caste certificate as well as the decision of the High Court, affirming 

 the said decision is untenable. We are, therefore, of the opinion that 

 the claim of the appellant deserves to be re-examined by the Caste 

 Scrutiny Committee. For the view we have taken on facts in hand, we 

 deem it unnecessary to refer to the decisions cited at the bar. 

21. Resultantly, the appeal is allowed; the decisions of Caste Scrutiny 

 Committee and the High Court are set aside and the case is remitted 

 back to the Caste Scrutiny Committee for fresh consideration in 

 accordance with the relevant rules and the aforesaid broad guidelines. 

22. However, the parties are left to bear their own costs. 16 ........................................J. (D.K. JAIN) ........................................J. (ASOK KUMAR GANGULY)NEW DELHI;NOVEMBER 8, 2011.ARS 17
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