31 March, 2006
[It has been more than fifty-five years that the makers of the constitution decided to implement the policy of ‘positive discrimination’ vis-a-vis those section of Indian society which were ‘socially oppressed’. It is clear that the entrenched caste interests in the Indian society have never taken kindly to these provisions. They have tried to scuttle its implementation at various levels. While one is aware of the non filling of seats meant for them in various institutions of education and other employement opportunities, the filling of such seats with fake dalits or bogus tribals is a phenomenon which has rarely received the attention it deserves. ]
In a recent judgement the Supreme Court brought the nation’s attention to the dereliction of constitutional duty in issuing SC and ST certificates without verifying that the applicant has suffered disabilities socially, economically and educationally. Delineating the impact of this approach leading us to a situation where reserved posts go into the hands of non-deserving candidates it emphatically stated that this results in ‘violation of the mandate of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution.’
The bench of Mr. Justice H. K. Sema and Mr. Justice Dr A. R. Lakshmanan was deliberating on a plea by one Anjan Kumar for granting him Scheduled Tribe status for being born of a tribal woman married to a nontribal husband. The honourable court dismissed the said appeal on the grounds that such an offshoot is brought up in an atmosphere of Forward Class and is not subjected to any disability. (The Excelsior, Jammu, February 16, 2006)
Ofcourse it is not for the first time that the phenomenon of bogus/fake caste certificates for getting admission / appointment has bee brought before the judiciary. In fact, last year quite a few high profile cases involving senior police officers or elected representatives of the people came up before different high courts.
A Senior Superintendent of Police from the Haryana cadre belonging to Rajput caste was convicted after a prolonged legal battle for submitting a fake SC certificate. In another case the Allahabad high court issued a show cause notice to Mr Majhi, a MP owning allegiance to Samajwadi Party, to verify his ‘scheduled caste identity’. The courts had to take this extraordinary step since there were allegations that Mr. Majhi belonging to backward caste had got himself elected from a reserved seat by attaching a false caste certificate. (The Hindu, 27 th October 2005).
Another member of parliament, Mr Munshi Pal belonging to Rashtriya Lok Dal was grilled by the Chairman of the National Commission on SC. This was sequel to filing of complaints against Mr. Pal from his people from his own constituency. In their complaint they had presented documentary proof informing that while selling land Mr. Pal had given an affidavit that he belonged to backward caste and at the timing of filing his nomination he presented a certificate that he belonged to the ‘scheduled category’. (‘Panel to Probe MP ‘Posing’ as Dalit for Elections’, The Indian Express, July 21, 2005).
We were also witness to the investigations done by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the status of employees working in different ministries of the central and state government. And the departments covered included DDA (Delhi Development Authority), NDMC (New Delhi Municipal Council) and similar public sector undertakings (Hindustan 17 th June 2005). The results of the investigation were shocking. It revealed that about 30 per cent of the employees in different departments of Delhi government who have got jobs on the basis of being belonging to scheduled tribes have submitted false certificates for the same.
Question naturally arises about the modus operandi through which people procure fake caste certificates. Apart from bribing the different authorities at various levels, a widely used method is benefiting from similarity in caste nomenclature. To take an example, Orissa government has categorised 62 castes under the ST category, which also covers a caste ‘Kondadora’. These people have still remained educationally and otherwise backward despite around sixty years of independence. Their total population also does not exceed around 14,000. Surprisingly one comes across many people working at important positions in the state bureaucracy belonging to the same ‘Kondadora’ caste. Ofcourse it is not difficult to understand this puzzle. A major chunk of the certified ‘Kondadoras’ happened to be part of the landowning Dora caste who managed to get a fraudulent certificates.
The ‘widespread incidence’ of false certificates prompted the National Commission on Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (since separated) to carry out pilot studies in several states. The Third Report of the ‘National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes’, (1994-95 & 1995-96 P. 192) tells us about the outcome of the process. A random check of twelve central government organisations in Tamil Nadu found 338 holders of fraudulent ST certificates. The Commission was successful in dismissing only six of them after ‘enormous delay. In fact nearly a quarter of the individuals thwarted removal by getting stay orders from cooperative local courts.
Report after report one notices the National Commission of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes’(since separated) grappling with this problem. To underline the gravity of the situation the Commission’s report in 1998 and its previous report, separate chapters were devoted to it. It has repeatedly called on the government to crack down on fraudulent certifications and had made detailed proposals for corrective measures, but none have been forthcoming. The fact is that few in the government really care. The Commission’s 1998 report had rather provided a final word:
• . . . certificates have been issued to ineligible persons, carelessly or deliberately. . . This has resulted in wrong persons availing of the benefits meant for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes on a false pretext.
• . . .the menace of false caste certificates is on the increase. . .
• A considerable number of seats in the educational institutions are also secured by these wrong persons.
• . . .there have been instances of persons being elected to elective offices on the strength of false Community Certificates.
Question naturally arises what can be done to rectify the situation and put brakes on one of the biggest ongoing scams in post independent India.
It need be noted that it is a considered observation of activists as well as experts that since the policy of reservation is based on executive instructions, it excludes the possibility of penal provisions even if officials are found to violate it. And looking at the predominance of Varna mindset even among the bureaucracy one can envisage how it might be devising ways and means to byepass its implementation. It is then high time that efforts are made so that the reservation system is given an administrative face-lift. To curb abuse of the scheme of positive discrimination revision and streamlining of procedures is a must. As suggested by the commission time and again, we need a comprehensive act, which would articulate the policy and which can be included in the ninth schedule of the constitution so that unnecessary intervention by the judiciary could also be curbed.