Supreme Court Reinstates Navneet Kaur Rana's Scheduled Caste Status, Overturns Bombay High Court's Decision

Supreme Court restores Navneet Kaur Rana's Scheduled Caste status, overturning Bombay High Court's ruling. Validation order reinstated, affirming her appeal.

In a significant development benefiting Amravati MP Navneet Kaur Rana, who emerged victorious in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections from a constituency reserved for Scheduled Castes, the Supreme Court, on Thursday (April 4), overturned the ruling of the Bombay High Court, which had invalidated her Scheduled Caste certificate.

During the verdict announcement, the Bench of Justices JK Maheshwari and Sanjay Karol emphasized that the Scrutiny Committee meticulously validated Rana's caste certificate, meticulously considering pertinent documents and adhering to principles of natural justice by allowing all concerned parties to present their arguments. Consequently, the Supreme Court deemed the High Court's intervention in the Committee's findings unwarranted.

In a landmark decision favoring Rana, the Supreme Court not only upheld her appeal but also reinstated the validation order issued by the Scrutiny Committee, thereby restoring her Scheduled Caste status.

To recapitulate the background, Rana contested a Bombay High Court judgment from 2021, which alleged that she obtained a 'Mochi' caste certificate fraudulently, despite records indicating her affiliation with the 'Sikh-Chamar' caste.

The High Court contended that the terms 'Chamar' and 'Sikh Chamar' were distinct, asserting, "The terms 'Chamar' and 'Sikh Chamar' are not synonymous. The term 'Sikh Chamar' is also not synonymous with the term 'Mochi' prescribed under entry 11 to the Schedule II to the Constitution of India (Scheduled Caste), Order 1950."

Furthermore, the High Court criticized the Scrutiny Committee for altering entry 11 of the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950 by incorporating the caste 'Sikh Chamar,' which it deemed impermissible.

Quoting from the High Court judgment, it stated, "The Scrutiny Committee has no power to interpret any document contrary to the entries in the Schedule to the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950. If such interpretation of the Scrutiny Committee is found contrary to law, shows perversity and if a fraud is committed on the Constitution by an applicant, this Court has ample power and duty to interfere with such perverse and fraudulently obtained order and to set aside the same."

Additionally, the High Court held Rana responsible for failing to meet the burden of proof stipulated under Section 8 of the Caste Certificate Act, along with its accompanying rules. Consequently, her election as an MP from a Scheduled Caste-reserved seat in Maharashtra was nullified.

Seeking redress, Rana approached the Supreme Court, arguing that her ancestors belonged to the Sikh-Chamar caste, with 'Sikh' serving as a religious prefix rather than a caste identifier. She maintained that she identifies with the 'Chamar' caste.

In June 2021, a vacation Bench of the Supreme Court stayed the Bombay High Court's ruling revoking Rana's caste certificate. Now, with the appeal against the High Court judgment succeeding, Rana, who initially won as an independent candidate from Amravati in 2019, has received the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) nomination to contest from Amravati in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

Senior Advocate Dhruv Mehta represented Rana as the appellant, while Advocate-on-Record Shadan Farasat appeared for the respondents.

Case Details: Navneet Kaur Harbhajansingh Kundles @ Navneet Kaur Ravi Rana v. The State of Maharashtra and Ors. | Civil Appeal No. 2741-2743/2024