The Gujarat Legislative Assembly on Wednesday passed a bill which makes use of fake caste certificates to take benefit of reservations a punishable offence.`The Gujarat Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes (Regulation of Issuance and Verification of Caste Certificates) Bill, 2018’ was passed unanimously on the last day of Budget session here.As per the bill, tabled by Tribal development minister Ganpat Vasava, those found guilty of producing fake caste certificate for government jobs or for admission to educational institutes would face a jail term of up to three years, but not less than six months.Apart from rigorous imprisonment, the offender will have to pay a fine of up to Rs 50,000. The fine shall not be less than Rs 10,000.Those found guilty of contesting and winning a local body election (such as the gram panchayat or municipality election) from a reserved seat using a fake caste certificate will also face the same punishment and fine.“In addition, the accused person will be disqualified, and the election will be declared invalid. These provisions are also applicable to those contesting elections to co-operative societies,” said Vasava.Moreover, the government officers found guilty of issuing fake caste certificates will face the same punishment.Those who have got a job using a fake certificate will be dismissed from service. The Bill also empowers the government to recover monetary benefits, such as salary and perks, which the offender may have obtained when in service.Similarly, the admissions secured by using fake caste certificates shall be cancelled. The degree of the guilty student will also be cancelled.The Bill provides for a new mechanism for obtaining the caste certificate.“The Competent Authority” appointed by the government would issue the caste certificate after verifying the genuineness of the applicant, the minister said.“Then the applicant needs to verify that certificate from a scrutiny committee and get a validity certificate,” said Vasava.The scrutiny committee can also initiate an inquiry on its own if it suspects that a person is taking benefit of reservations by using a fake caste certificate.The Bill will now be sent for the Governor’s assent.