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Apex court questions Cong MLA on SC status
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, February 22
The Supreme Court today questioned Congress MLA Bodh Raj from Himachal Pradesh on his Scheduled Caste (SC) status while considering an election appeal filed by his BJP rival, asking why his birth and school registrations be ignored where he has been shown to be belonging to ‘tarkhan’ caste, which was not SC but a backward caste.

Bodh Raj had defeated his BJP rival, Desh Raj, hailing from Gangath which is a reserved SC seat, by about a margin of 2,000 votes in the last election. He had filed a SC certificate with his nomination papers, in which he was declared to be belonging to ‘lohar (blacksmith)’ community, a Scheduled Caste in Himachal Pradesh.

The Himachal Pradesh High Court had, however, dismissed Desh Raj’s election petition and accepted the validity of Bodh Raj’s SC certificate by giving it higher weight over the birth and school registration records, in which he was shown to be belonging to ‘tarkhan (wood work artisans)’ community, a backward caste.

But Desh Raj’s counsel Mahabir Singh challenged the High Court order on the ground that the birth and school registrations should get precedence over the SC certificate in such cases because the caste certificate was issued by the authorities much later and cited several rulings of the apex court regarding this.

To the pointed queries from a Bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrsihnan and Justice R.V. Raveendran, Congress MLA’s counsel Anoop George Chaudhary said the High Court had examined various witnesses and also gone into hereditary “Parivar Register” of Bodh Raj, which had established that his father and grandfather belonged to “lohar” community.

Though the court was of the “prima facie’ view that the caste recorded in the birth register and school register could not be ignored, it reserved its judgment on the appeal of the BJP MLA, who had challenged Bodh Raj’s election on the ground that producing “false” SC certificate amounted to indulging in corrupt electoral practice.

The court said the matter had to be decided in the wake of the question raised in the appeal in the light whether giving such a certificate amounted to corrupt electoral practice or not keeping in view the guidelines laid down by it in various judgments.

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