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Bombay High Court imposes Rs 10k fine on petitioners for hiding facts, filing PIL with personal agenda

Bombay High Court Nagpur division bench dismisses a PIL whose case is that “Koshti” is a profession of weaving and all “Halbas/Halbies” pursue this profession and, therefore, “Koshties” are also entitled to be declared as synonyms of “Halbas/Halbies” (Scheduled Tribe).
05:40 PM Sep 24, 2022 IST | India Legal
bombay high court imposes rs 10k fine on petitioners for hiding facts  filing pil with personal agenda
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The Bombay High Court, while observing that the petitioners were guilty of suppressing material facts and have their own personal agenda to follow by filing the PIL, imposed a cost of rupees ten thousand to be paid jointly and severally by the petitioners.

The Nagpur Division Bench of Justice Sunil B. Shukrte and Justice G.A. Sanap dismissed a PIL, whose case was that “Koshti” was a profession of weaving and all “Halbas/Halbies” pursue this profession and, therefore, “Koshties” are also entitled to be declared as synonyms of “Halbas/Halbies” (Scheduled Tribe).

The main prayers made in this petition are :-

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(ii) by an appropriate writ, order and/or direction, quash and set aside the entry number 16 of the Government Resolution dated 24th April, 1985 issued by the respondent no.2 (Department of Tribal Development) ;

(iii) by an appropriate writ, order and/or direction, direct the Respondent number 2 to issue the Caste Validity Certificates during the pendency of this Public Interest Litigation to such candidates belonging to Halba, Halbi community specifically staying in Central Province and Berar and the profession of whom was weaving and hence, they were called as Koshti by professional name based on the ancient history.

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(iv) direct the Respondent number 2 not to take any action against the candidates whose claim of Halba, Halbi (Scheduled Tribe) – Scheduled Tribe Caste Committee in Maharashtra was rejected by the Certificates Scrutiny;

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(iv-a) by an appropriate writ, order and/or direction hold that Halba, Halbi from the geographic areas of erstwhile Central Provinces and Berar have adopted profession of weaving and recorded in revenue, birth and School records as Koshti, a vernacular synonymous word for weaver. In pre-independence/preConstitution area, by virtue of provisions in Rules and Order under Births, Death and Marriages Act No.6 of 1886, the Registration Act No.16 of 1908, Central Provinces Ethnographic Survey B Draft Articles on Forest Tribes (Second Series) printed in 1911 and other historical Government reports/documents available since 1827, brought out in this petition.”

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The High Court observed that the prayer clause (ii) of the petition contains a basic prayer and remaining prayer clauses contain consequential prayers. The prayer clause (ii) seeks to question the legality and validity of the Government Resolution dated 24th April 1985 whereby community “Koshti” has been shown to be the non tribal and also a community which takes advantage of its similarity with “Halba” or “Halbi” community for the purpose of illegally and unjustifiably obtaining tribe validity certificates. This prayer proceeds on the premise that since “Koshti” is the community, which carries on occupation of weaving for earning livelihood and since all “Halbas” or “Halbies” (Scheduled Tribe) also carry on the occupation of weaving, person who is shown as “Koshti” in any relevant documents standing as proof of social status of that person, must be declared to be identical to and as equal to “Halba” or “Halbi” (Scheduled Tribe). On this basic premise, further prayer clauses have been made, such as validation of all tribe claims of the persons on the ground that the entries in various relevant documents disclose those persons to be belonging to “Koshti” community and not Halba/Halbi community and so on.

Further the Bench held that if such prayers are to be granted, it would be necessary for the petitioners to support their claim either on the basis of the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950 or conclusion made in the report of experts that anthropologically and socially “Koshties” are identical to and similar to “Halbas” or “Halbies” (Scheduled Tribe), which is accepted by the Government and, therefore, they also deserve to be included in the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950. There is neither any Constitutional Order nor any such report of the Experts, which favours the contention of the petitioners.

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It is clear to the Court that the law declared by the Supreme Court squarely applies to the facts of this case and the petitioners are not at all entitled to pursue the non existent cause of action by filing a public interest litigation and consuming precious public time.

At this stage, Assistant Government Pleader for the respondents pointed out that the petitioner no.1’s husband claim as belonging to “Halba” (Scheduled Tribe) was invalidated by the Scheduled Tribe Certificate Scrutiny Committee, Nagpur on 1/2/2016 and that the challenge raised by him to the order of the Scrutiny Committee was also rejected by the High Court by its judgment delivered on 6/4/2016 and thereafter the judgment of the Court dated 6/4/2016 was upheld by the Apex Court when it dismissed civil appeal husband of the petitioner no.1, on 10/8/2021. He submitted that the petitioner no.1 has knowledge of all these events and now, by suppressing these material facts from the Court, she has made an attempt to obtain something from the High Court, which her husband could not succeed in getting it.

The Court further observed that even otherwise, it is not the case of the petitioner no.1 that she is living separately from her husband and that she has no knowledge about what was done and what is being done by her husband. It is also not her case that she would not claim the social status of “Halba” or “Halbi” (Scheduled Tribe) in future. Therefore, we are of the view that the petitioners ought to have averred about the material facts of the husband of the petitioner no.1 having lost his tribe claim of belonging to “Halba/Halbi” (Scheduled Tribe) before the Court and right upto the Supreme Court.

In view of the Bench , the petitioners are guilty of suppression of material facts and also the Court finds that the petitioners have their some personal agenda to follow by filing this petition. ‘Such an attempt by the petitioners to pursue private agenda under the garb of public interest litigation must be curtailed. ‘

In the result, the Court find that the petition is devoid of any merit and appears to be an attempt to pursue a private agenda under the cloak of public interest litigation. ‘The petition stands dismissed with nominal costs of rupees ten thousand to be paid jointly and severally by the petitioners. The costs shall be deposited in the Account of the High Court Bar Association, Nagpur for the purpose of development of Library including e-Library within four weeks from today ‘, the court ordered.

It is pertinent to note that law in this regard is already settled. In the case of Raju Ramsing Vasave vs. Mahesh Deorao Bhivapurkar and others {(2008) 9 SCC 54}, the Apex Court has held very clearly that the Court does not have jurisdiction to substitute any caste or tribe in the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950 and Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950. In para 20 of the judgment, the Supreme Court held that in terms of Article 342 of the Constitution of India, the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950 was issued and in this Order, tribe “Halba” finds place, but the community “Koshti” is not mentioned in the said Order. It further held that the community “Koshti” in the State of Maharashtra comes under “Special Backward Class” and the occupation of the members of this community may be the same, but it is well settled that before a person can obtain a declaration that he is a member of the Scheduled Tribe, he must be a member of the tribe. For this proposition of law, the Supreme Court referred to the case of Nityanand Sharma vs. State of Bihar {(1996) 3 SCC 576}. For these reasons, the Supreme Court has held that the Court does not have any jurisdiction so as to enable it to substitute any caste or tribe. The relevant observations of the Supreme Court as they appear in para 21 of the judgment are reproduced as under :

“21. Parliament, it is trite, alone can amend the law and the schedule for the purpose of including or excluding therefrom a tribe or tribal community or part of or group within the same in the State, district or region and the declaration made by Parliament is conclusive. For the said purpose, the court does not have any jurisdiction so as to enable it to substitute any caste and tribe.”

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