Solapur BJP MP Jaysiddheshwar Shivacharya Mahaswami. (File Photo)
Granting interim relief to Solapur BJP MP Jaysiddheshwar Shivacharya Mahaswami, the Bombay High Court on Thursday stayed the district scrutiny committee’s decision declaring his caste certificate invalid.
A division bench of Justices K K Tated and Sarang Kotwal passed an interim order on Shivacharya’s plea.
After the state government’s district caste scrutiny committee on February 24 declared invalid the caste certificate of Shivacharya and issued directions for a case to be lodged against him, the BJP MP moved the high court and challenged the caste panel’s decision.
Acting on the caste panel’s directions, Solapur police last week registered a case of cheating and forgery against Shivacharya for allegedly submitting a fake caste certificate with his election affidavit for the Lok Sabha elections last year.
A Lingayat seer, Shivacharya was elected from Solapur Lok Sabha constituency, reserved for Scheduled Caste (SC). He defeated Congress leader Sushilkumar Shinde and Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi’s Prakash Ambedkar.
Following his election, VBA leader Pramod Gaikwad and two others had complained that Shivacharya is a Lingayat but had been elected from the SC reserved Lok Sabha seat. Gaikwad further alleged he had obtained a bogus caste certificate in which his caste is deemed to be “Beda Jangam”, which falls under the SC category.
Shivacharya provided three documents — his father’s birth certificate of 1915 and two others — to claim he belongs to “Beda Jangam” caste. He also referred to the caste certificate issued to him in 1982 by the competent authority in Akkalkot tehsil in Solapur.
The committee, after scrutinising records, issued an order stating that the caste certificate was bogus and that Shivacharya belonged to “Jangam” community under Other Backward Class (OBC) category.
Senior counsel Prasad Dhakephalkar, appearing for the BJP MP, claimed that the caste claim of the petitioner was decided by the committee in a hasty manner and did not consider important pieces of evidence. Shivacharya had petitioned the high court to declare that he belongs to “Beda Jangam” and also sought an interim stay on the caste panel’s order until disposal of his plea before the high court.
He had submitted that “Beda Jangam” is a Scheduled Caste declared by way of a Presidential order of 1950 and the traditional occupation of the caste is to perform death ceremonies, rituals and begging.
He also claimed that the scrutiny committee passed a decision without giving him an opportunity to be heard. He further submitted that the vigilance cell report considered by the committee consists of false opinion.
Senior advocate Shreehari Aney, appearing for one of the complainants, opposed the plea and argued that the Shivacharya was given enough time to prove documents produced by him and caste panel’s decision was justified.
The court also took on record an intervention plea filed by advocate Gunaratan Sadavarte and asked him to file a reply. The bench posted further hearing on April 8.