A Supreme Court Bench of Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice JK Maheshwari while upholding an OBC appointment concurred with the findings of the Division Bench of the Karnataka High Court that held that children ordinarily belong to the caste of their father

The Court also concurred with the finding of the High Court that the caste of the Respondent was Lingayat-Ganiga and that it will be construed as Hindu Ganiga.

The Court placed reliance on Lawrence Salvador D'Souza v. State of Maharashtra & Ors. (Civil Appeal No.6539/2016), where the Apex Court had directed the Committee to consider the caste certificate of the niece of the Appellant in that case for making a report about his caste. In this case, the Appellant had produced a number of caste certificates of his relatives indicating their caste as 'Hindu-Ganiga'. After perusing the documents produced, Apex Court held that since the caste of the forefather of the Appellant was mentioned as 'Ganiger', an inference may be drawn with the help of this document that the caste of the Appellant was also 'Ganiga'.

This case pertains to a Reservation Policy formulated by the Government of Karnataka, for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes, for admission to professional courses. The Reservation Policy was also made applicable to employment under the State. The Policy divided the benefit under it into various categories.

In 1999, the Appellant and Respondent No. 1 applied for posts of Gazetted Probationary Officers, claiming the benefit of reservation as per the Policy.

The Appellant claimed reservation as a "Kurba" by caste, and Respondent No. 1 claimed reservation as a "Hindu Ganiga" by caste. A certificate was issued to Respondent No. 1 from the Tehsildar office, which certified that Respondent No. 1 belonged to the Ganiga sub-caste, and Respondent No. 1 applied to the post on the strength of this certificate.

In 2002, the Government of Karnataka issued an order in which the Lingayat Ganiga was excluded from the benefit of reservation to the "Ganiga" sub-caste under Category II-A, and placed under Category III-B.

In 2005, the Karnataka Public Service Commission (KPSC) published the provisional list of candidates selected for the posts of Probationary Officers. Then, Respondent No. 3 issued a certificate validating the caste certificate submitted by Respondent No. 1, on instruction of the KPSC.

On the basis of the final list notified by the KPSC in 2005, the Appellant was selected for the post of Deputy Superintendent of Police and Respondent No. 1 was selected for the post of Assistant Commissioner (Junior Grade Scale). Both the Appellant and the Respondent No.1 were selected under the Reserved Category II-A of the Reservation Policy. The Respondent No.1 secured 1152 marks and was placed at Sl. No. 15 in the category of posts of Assistant Commissioner, whereas the Appellant secured 1151 marks and was placed at Sl. No.6 in the category of posts of Deputy Superintendent of Police.

The Appellant claimed that in 2005 he came to know that Respondent No. 1's father belonged to the "Lingayat" caste, whereas Respondent No. 1 had claimed the benefit of reservation under Category II-A of the Reservation Policy claiming that he belonged to the "Ganiga" caste. The Appellant contended that the "Lingayat" caste - including the sub-castes - fell under Category III-B (with 5% reservation), whereas Hindu Ganiga fell under Category II-A (with 15% reservation).

The Appellant filed an appeal under Section 4D of the Karnataka Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes (Reservation of Appointments, etc.) Act, 1990, before Respondent No. 2. The Appellant challenged the Caste Validity Certificate issued to the Respondent No.1 by the Respondent No.3. In the appeal, the Appellant enclosed the school extract of Government Higher Primary School, wherein the caste of Respondent No.1's father was recorded as "Hindu Lingayat".

After a series of proceedings, in 2006, Respondent No. 2 passed an order concluding that Respondent No. 1 belonged to the "Hindu Lingayat" caste as he would inherit the case of his father.

Aggrieved, Respondent No. 1 filed a Writ Petition before the High Court and obtained an interim order of status quo.

The Respondent No. 2 directed the Civil Rights Enforcement Cell to initiate prosecution against the Respondent No.1 under Rule 7A of the Karnataka Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes (Reservation of Appointment, etc.) Rules 1992, for having obtained false certificate under Category II-A. The Cell submitted a report to the effect that the Respondent No.1 belonged to the "Ganiga" caste, and therefore no prosecution could be initiated against him.

In 2009, the Government of Karnataka issued an order, whereby 19 sub-castes within the "Veerashaiva Lingayat" caste were included in Category III-B of the Reservation 7 Policy. The sub-castes included "Ganiga" sub caste of the "Veerashaiva Lingayat" caste. As against 15% reserved for Category II-A, only 5% of the posts were reserved for Category III-B. However, the Government later reverted the position of reservation of some of the subcastes of the Veerashaiva Lingayat and the "Lingayat" caste continued to remain in Category III-B.

In 2017, the Writ Petition was dismissed by a Single Judge of the High Court. Aggrieved, Resposndent No. 1 approached the Division Bench. The Division Bench set aside the order of the Single and quashed the order of Respondent No. 2.

On appeal before the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court agreed with the judgment passed by the Division Bench. The Supreme Court harmonized with the Division Bench's reasoning that if the Respondent No.1's father was, in fact, Ganiga, the mere fact that his caste may not have been mentioned in his school records, or elsewhere, would not mean that he would have to be treated as a non-Ganiga by caste.

Further, the Court also upheld the reasoning that the 2009 order's intent was to extend the benefit of reservation under Category II-A to the Lingayat-Ganigas also.

Regarding the decision of the Cell to not initiate prosecution, the Supreme Court opined that "The decision of the Civil Enforcement Cell not to initiate the prosecution may have been against the directions issued by the Respondent No.2. The decision however, was justified, considering the materials on record showing the caste of the forefather and relatives of the Respondent No.1 as 'Ganiger' or 'Ganiga'. Even if the Caste Certificate and the Validity Certificate are ignored, there are materials including a pre-constitution registered sale deed of the Respondent No.1's grandfather showing his caste was 'Ganiga'."

Lastly, the Supreme Court held that the Division Bench's decision was well reasoned and it did not call for interference. Finding no ground to interfere with the judgment, the Court dismissed the appeal.

Cause Title - M.V. Chandrakanth v. Sangappa & Ors.

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