The state government has been ordered to suspend the commissioner of the Tribal Research and Training Institute, Pune, AK Jha.
The Bombay high court told the state to suspend Jha who has been charged with taking undue interest in validating the caste claim of a few members of a Malad-based family and replacing the vice chairman of a caste scrutiny committee with the person of his choice.
“How can a person facing criminal charges like forgery continue in service?” asked the division bench of justice DK Deshmukh and justice AV Mohta. “See to it that he is suspended before Monday,” the judges said.
The court was hearing a petition filed by Dattani Constructions. The firm, according to its petition, had purchased a plot of land at Malad (West) from Jamnabai Vanage.
In November 2009, nearly, twenty years after the transaction, some members of Vanage’s family moved an application before the concerned sub-divisional officer seeking restoration of the land by claiming they belonged to the scheduled tribe.
The Maharashtra Restoration of Lands to Scheduled Tribes Act, 1974 provides for the restoration to a tribal his land, which has gone into the hands of a non-tribal. In order to pursue their claim, the Vanage family members had also applied for validating its caste claim of belonging to a scheduled tribe called Malhar Koli.
When the matter was pending before the high court, Jha allegedly tried to pressurise Alpesh Ajmera, partner of Dhruv Constructions, another partnership firm, which subsequently purchased the Vanage property, to settle the matter with the family.
According to an affidavit filed by Anil Suryavanshi, deputy secretary, tribal development department, Jha had replaced the deputy director of the caste scrutiny committee, Thane with a person of his own choice – VN Thombre – when he had no authority to do so.