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Surname immaterial once Competent Authority finds someone belonging to ST community: HC

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Srinagar: The J&K High Court on Thursday held that once the Competent Authority finds a person belonging to a particular Scheduled Tribe (ST) community, the carrying of different surname by such person would be immaterial.

The direction ensued a litigation wherein some members of the Gujjar community petitioned against the issuance of category certificates in favor of some persons belonging to sub-caste “Khan”of the Gujjar Tribe.

Factual matrix of the case is that one Irfan Ahmad Khan Gujjar from Dedoo Marhama, Bijbehara, Anantnag had been selected as Sub Inspector (Executive) in Jammu and Kashmir Police in 2016 under the reserved category of Scheduled Tribe (ST).

Incidentally, some of his other brothers too had been shortlisted for the post of general line teachers in the Education department around the same period.

Their father Assadulla Khan had been issued an ST certificate for being a member of Gujjar community by the Tehsildar, Bijbehara, in 1997.

A controversy arose after some of the ST category candidates of Gujjar community felt threatened by the selection of Khan Gujjar sons of Assadullah.

Thus they started filing complaints to various authorities calling for cancellation of ST category certificates in favor of Khan Gujjars.

They floated an Association under one Javaid Ahmad Dehdar and filed a writ petition before the High Court. Here they prayed for a direction to the State from issuing ST category certificates to the persons other than those belonging to Gujjar and Bakerwal Community.

Meanwhile an enquiry was conducted in to the matter. The ST certificates issued in favor of Khan Gujjars by the competent authority were cancelled by the Deputy Commissioner (DC) Ananatnag.

However, the court came to the rescue of Irfan Khan Gujjar. In 2019, it passed an interim order and allowed him to join his services in police.

He along with his six brothers assailed the cancellation of ST certificates by the DC. “It was passed without providing them any opportunity of being heard,” they argued through their lawyer.

The DC’s order of cancellation of the certificates was thence stayed.

After weighing in the arguments in favour and against in the case, Justice Sanjeev Kumar allowed the petition of the Khan Gujjar brothers.

“The order passed by the DC Anantnag, cancelling the ST category certificates issued favor of the petitioners, is quashed. They shall be entitled to all the benefits emanating from the certificates issued in their favor,” he directed.

Once the Competent Authority finds a person belonging to a particular Scheduled Tribe community, the carrying of different surname by such person would be immaterial, the court said.

It is trite law that a person cannot be deprived of his vested right without first complying with the principles of natural justice. Audi alteram partem is one of the important facets of the principles of natural justice, concluded the court.

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