The Bombay high court has reinstated a municipal bus conductor, who was dismissed after 20 years in service as his caste certificate was invalidated by a government committee, observing that action against him reflected non-application of mind by authorities.
It set aside an order of caste scrutiny committee of Maharashtra government invalidating the conductor's scheduled caste certificate, as a result of which he was dismissed from municipal transport service in 2013.
The HC reinstated the conductor, Horilal Jaiswar, in service with back wages while observing the impugned action was taken due to non-application of mind by authorities.
The order was delivered by a bench of justice Reveti Mohite-Dere and justice VM Kanade last week.
Aggrieved by the panel's move and termination order issued by then Bombay Suburban Electric Supply and Transport Undertaking (BSES), Jaiswar had moved the HC.
The committee had come to a conclusion that though the petitioner belonged to a Scheduled Caste, his application for caste validity certificate was being rejected on the ground he was not domiciled in Maharashtra before August 10, 1950.
The bench directed the vigilance cell of the Committee to give a fresh opportunity to Jaiswar to lead oral evidence apart from documentary evidence already produced by him with regard to his domicile status before 1950.
The Judges directed the existing municipal transport undertaking (BEST) to reinstate the petitioner with back wages and ordered the vigilance cell to complete its investigation within 12 weeks.
Thereafter, the judges said, the committee shall expeditiously decide his application on merits and in accordance with law.
In course of his employment spanning two decades, Jaiswar was awarded certificates of appreciation for displaying honesty and integrity in work. He was also awarded medals for excellent work in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
The conductor was due for promotion and his case was referred to the committee to verify his claim that he belonged to Scheduled Caste. The vigilance cell sent notices to the petitioner for producing documents to prove his residence in Mumbai prior to 1950.
Jaiswar claimed he did not receive these letters in time though later he visited the vigilance cell's office and showed all necessary documents he possessed. The vigilance cell, thereafter, submitted a report to the committee, stating the petitioner had failed to submit documents relating to his caste. He opined Jaiswar was not interested in getting his caste certificate verified.
During an oral presentation, the petitioner told the committee that his father resided in Mumbai and was an employee of Bombay Dyeing and Spinning Mills from 1957. However, this was not considered by the panel which invalidated his caste certificate in July, 2013.
The petitioner argued his caste certificate was cancelled after almost 20 years and during service he had been awarded certificates of appreciation from time to time. It was not in dispute that he belonged to a Scheduled Caste and the only ground on which his certificate was invalidated was that he was not ordinarily residing in Mumbai prior to 1950.
The committee argued that in the absence of documentary evidence it had rejected the caste claim of the petitioner.
The HC said the vigilance cell had wrongly opined the petitioner was not interested in getting his caste claim verified.
The bench noted that the petitioner had not received in time the notices sent to him in 2009, 2011 and 2012 by vigilance cell. However, he did later visit the office of Vigilance Cell and submitted necessary papers.
"The explanation given by the petitioner, in our view, appears to be plausible and therefore the vigilance cell clearly erred in concluding he was not interested in getting his caste certificate verified," the judges noted.