Gujarat HC gives relief to MLA Khant, quashes scrutiny committee order invalidating his caste certificate

Gandhinagar:

Giving a relief to the Independent MLA from Morva Hadaf (reserved for ST seat) constituency in Panchamals district in Central Gujarat Bhupendra Khant, whose membership of the state assembly was at stake following the decision of a scrutiny committee of the state government invalidating his caste certificate,the Gujarat high court quashed the committee order and instructed it to hear Khant and take a decision accordingly by February 21.

The Court of Justice Bela Trivedi quashed the order of the committee through which the caste certificate was cancelled.

Counsel of Khant Pankaj Champaneri said that the court questioned the cancellation of the certificate by the scrutiny committee on day one after the reception of vigilance report in this regard without even giving an opportunity to Khant to explain.

Additional Advocate General of Gujarat Prakash Jani assisted by Government Pleader Manisha Lavkumar said that it was a case of fraud and the decision of the committee was right. The court observed that a decision can’t be taken without hearing the other side.

Champaneri said that that as per the court order Khant would have to produce documents in support of his certificate before the committee by February 7 and the committee would have to take a decision after proper scrutiny of the same by February 21.

Notably, 38 year old Khant, son of an OBC father V K Khant and ST mother and former Congress MLA from the same seat, late Savita Khant who died of a cardiac arrest soon after her victory in 2012, had filed a petition in the court challenging the scrutiny committee order.

Khant, who had contested the seat as an independent revolting with his party Congress and emerged victorious had later announced his support to the party. Congress had given the seat to its ally Bharatiya Tribal Party led by Chhotu Vasava. Later a complaint challenging his caste status was filed before the administration for the examination of which the committee was constituted.

Tribal development commissioner R J Makadia had earlier said that a committee to verify the schedule tribe certificate of Khant after the detailed record verification had recommended that the certificate was invalid.

Khant maintained that there was nothing wrong with his caste certificate but he was being targeted owing to political reasons. As per law the son of a non-tribal father and tribal mother was entitled to be treated as ST.

Interestingly Congress had expelled him owing to his candidature as independent but the party apparently put the red carpet before him following his victory. He had also met Congress president Rahul Gandhi in Ahmedabad last month. BTP candidate Kalpesh Damor who lost against him as Congress supported candidate was also said to be instrumental in raking up his caste certificate issue.

DeshGujarat

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