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What is a Community Certificate? A Community Certificate is the proof of one’s belonging to a particular caste, especially in case one belongs to any of the ‘Scheduled Castes’, ‘Scheduled Tribe’ and the Backward Class as specified in the Indian Constitution. The Government felt that the Scheduled Castes and Tribes need special encouragement and
Article 338 of the Constitution of India mandates the constitution of a National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Article 338A mandates the constitution of a National Commission for Scheduled Tribes. It is evident from Article 338 as it originally stood, that the Commission was constituted to protect and safeguard the persons belonging to scheduled castes and scheduled tribes by ensuring : (i) anti- discrimination, (ii) affirmative action by way reservation and empowerment, and (iii) redressal of grievances. The duties under clause 5(b) of Article 338 did not extend to either issue of caste/tribe certificate or to revoke or cancel a caste/tribe certificate or to decide upon the validity of the caste certificate. Having regard to the sub-clause (b) of clause (5) of Article 338, the Commission could no doubt entertain and enquire into any specific complaint about deprivation of any rights and safeguards of Scheduled Tribes. When such a complaint was received, the Commission could enquire into such complaint and give a report to the Central Government or State Government requiring effective implementation of the safeguards and measures for the protection and welfare and socio-economic development of scheduled tribes. This power to enquire into `deprivation of rights and safeguards of the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes' did not include the power to enquire into and decide the caste/tribe status of any particular individual. In fact, as there was no effective mechanism to verify the caste/tribe certificates issued to individuals, the Supreme Court of India in Madhuri Patil vs. Addl. Commissioner (Tribal Development) - 1994 (6) SCC 241 directed constitution of scrutiny committees.
The Supreme Court held that on account of false social status certificates being obtained by unscrupulous individuals, and cornering the benefits meant for SCs and STs, persons who genuinely belonged to scheduled castes/scheduled tribes were denied the benefit of reservation in posts/seats and other benefits extended to SCs and STs. It therefore, felt that there was a need to streamline the procedure for issuance of social status certificate, their scrutiny and approval and issued the following directions : (1) The application for grant of social status certificate shall be made to the Revenue-Sub-Divisional Officer and Deputy Collector or Deputy Commissioner and the certificate shall be issued by such Officer rather than at the Officer, Taluk or Mandal level. (2) All the State Governments shall constitute a Committee of three officers, namely, (I) an Additional or Joint Secretary or any officer higher in rank of the Director of the concerned department, (II) the Director, Social Welfare/Tribal Welfare/Backward Class Welfare, as the case may, and (III) in the case of Scheduled Castes another officer who has intimate knowledge in the verification and issuance of the social status certificates. In the case of the Scheduled Tribes, the Research Officer who has intimate knowledge in identifying the tribes, tribal communities, parts of or groups of tribes or tribal communities. (3) Each Directorate should constitute a vigilance cell consisting of Senior Deputy Superintendent of Police in over all charge and such number of Police Inspectors to investigate into the social status claims. The Inspector would go to the local place of residence and original place from which the candidate hails and usually resides or in case of migration to the town or city, the place from which he originally hailed from. The vigilance officer should personally verify and collect all the facts of the social status claimed by the candidate or the parent or guardian, as the case may be. He also should examine the school records, birth registration, if any. He should also examine the parent, guardian or the candidate in relation to their caste etc. or such other persons who have knowledge of the social status of the candidate and then submit a report to the Directorate together with all particulars as envisaged in the proforma, in particular, of the Scheduled Tribes relating to their peculiar anthropological and ethnological traits, deities, rituals, customs, mode of marriage, death ceremonies, method of burial of dead bodies etc. by the concerned castes or tribes or tribal communities etc. (4) On receipt of the report from the vigilance officer the entire matter should be placed before the Scrutiny Committee and the Committee should issue show cause notice supplying a copy of the report of the vigilance officer to the candidate by registered post with acknowledgement due or through the head of the concerned educational institution in which the candidate is studying or employed. The inquiry should be completed as expeditiously as possible preferably by day-to-day proceedings within such period not exceeding two months. If after inquiry, the caste Scrutiny Committee finds the claim to be false or spurious, they should pass an order cancelling the certificate issued and confiscate the same. It should communicate within one month from the date of the conclusion of the proceedings the result of enquiry to the parent/guardian and the applicant.
The Supreme Court thus formulated a scheme for verification of tribal status and held that any application for verification of tribal status as a scheduled tribe should be carried out by such Committees. The verification of the validity of caste certificates and determination of the caste status should therefore be done by the Scrutiny Committees constituted as per the directions in Madhuri Patil or in terms of any statute made by the appropriate government in that behalf.