New Delhi, May 22 (IANS) A Delhi government school teacher, facing departmental proceedings for allegedly submitting a fake caste certificate for the job, has got relief from the Central Administrative Tribunal, which has annulled the action against her and ordered an inquiry into the veracity of the document.
Principal Bench Chairman Syed Rafat Alam and Member Birendra Kumar Sinha allowed teacher Mithlesh Verma's application, opposing the education department's proceedings against her, and said: "The impugned departmental proceeding is hereby quashed."
"The Delhi government and the education directorate shall refer the caste certificate furnished by the applicant at the time of her appointment along with other material or evidence to the Caste Certificate Scrutiny Committee...(for) necessary enquiry...," the tribunal said in a recent order.
Alam said the committee will report its findings expeditiously, preferably within three months, and submit its report to the director of education.
The tribunal accepted Verma's challenge against an inquiry conducted by a departmental authority, underlining the fact that a probe into caste certificates could only be conducted by the Caste Certificate Scrutiny Committee.
"In view of the enunciation of law by the Supreme Court...we hold that the departmental proceeding initiated against the applicant cannot proceed," the bench said.
The tribunal quoted an apex court judgment as saying: "Once we have already deemed that the Caste Certificate Scrutiny Committee...is the highest and the sole authority to decide the genuineness of the caste certificate, it would straightaway imply that no other authority has the competence to decide the genuineness of the caste certificate which even includes the departmental authority."
The Delhi government's contentions before the tribunal threw up the question whether the applicant, who got the certificate issued in 1979 and was appointed on the basis of the certificate and continued to earn promotions on its basis, "may be allowed to walk away with the fruits of her caste certificate in case it turned out to be false".
"The fact as it is stands is that till today, the caste certificate has not been rescinded," the bench noted.
Quoting from a judgment of the Supreme Court, the tribunal said as soon as the finding "is recorded by the Caste Certificate Scrutiny Committee holding that the certificate obtained was false, on its cancellation and confiscation simultaneously, it should be communicated to the concerned educational institution or the appointing authority by registered post with acknowledgment due with a request to cancel the admission or the appointment".
Verma, currently a district education officer/principal, filed an application in the tribunal against a memo of charges issued and served on her Oct 7, 2010, for fraudulently securing an appointment as post-graduate teacher in the directorate of education against a post reserved for the Scheduled Tribes (ST) and her further promotion as principal.
She said her ST certificate continued to be valid till date and had not been rescinded and blamed the animosity of a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) officer for getting a false criminal case instituted against her alleging that she belonged to the Sunar caste and had fraudulently obtained a false caste/ST certificate claiming that she belonged to the Sonkatkari Tribe.
The Delhi government told the tribunal that the case of the applicant deserved no leniency due to the enormity of the act and, therefore, her original application should be dismissed.
Government counsel also said that a criminal case was also pending against the applicant in a Delhi court over the issue.
The government said Verma's earlier plea was dismissed by the tribunal Dec 12, 2012, allowing departmental proceedings to continue along with the criminal case.
The government lawyer said that the tribunal's order in December observed that only the standard of proof was different but the procedure followed in both the departmental and criminal proceedings were entirely different and, therefore, no prejudice would be caused if both proceeded simultaneously.
(Rahul Chhabra can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)