Fake SC Certificate: How Law Caught Up With A Dalit Woman Who Converted To Islam After Marriage But Fought Poll As A Dalit
The FIR against Kavita alias Ashiya was culmination of a five-year legal struggle by a Dalit organisation against her election in a Zila Panchayat poll.
The organisation said it would pursue the case till her arrest and conviction.
In July this year, a first information report (FIR) was filed in Uttarakhand against a woman who was born into a Scheduled Caste (SC) family but converted to Islam after marriage, for continuing to use SC benefits through “fraud”.
The Jwalapur Police Station in Uttarakhand’s Haridwar district booked the woman, Ashiya, under IPC sections 420, 467, 468, 471, 171-F and 171-G (FIR number 365/2020).
The woman, who was born in New Delhi as Kavita to mother Jagbiri and father Rampal Singh, married a Muslim man from Uttarakhand named Moazzam in 1997.
She got an SC certificate made in Uttarakhand in 2011 and successfully fought a Zila Panchayat poll from Haridwar in 2015.
The FIR was culmination of a five-year legal struggle by a Dalit organisation against her election. Ashiya’s case came into the organisation’s knowledge in 2016. It was when a woman named Savita, who lost the Zila Panchayat poll to Ashiya, approached them.
The said poll was held at Ward Number 2, Rajpur, Bahadrabad, on 27 December 2015 for a seat reserved for SC women.
The organisation first gave a written complaint to the district magistrate. As the complaint saw no action, they moved the Uttarakhand High Court (HC) the same year.
In the plea, Savita said that Kavita alias Ashiya is married to a man named Moazzam and has three children out of this marriage. As Moazzam professes Islam, Kavita has converted to Islam and cannot avail of SC benefits anymore. The plea also said that as Kavita was a permanent resident of New Delhi before her marriage, she cannot get SC benefits in another state.
A single-judge bench gave a judgement in favour of Savita. It ordered for Ashiya’s SC certificate, that was issued to her by a tehsildar in Haridwar in 2011, to be quashed and an FIR lodged against her for “giving false statement under oath regarding her marital status”.
In 2018, the court accepted a special appeal by Ashiya challenging the verdict. Ashiya said in her plea that the findings recorded by the single-judge bench that she is legally wedded wife of Moazzam “is without any basis”.
The plea also said that as her caste, Jaatav, is notified as a Scheduled Caste in both New Delhi and Uttarakhand, there was nothing wrong in her contesting the election from an SC-reserved seat from Haridwar.
The court set aside the judgement by the single-judge bench and directed the State Caste Scrutiny Committee to look into Kavita alias Ashiya’s caste status.
The committee began its probe in October 2019.
To support her case, Savita submitted the voter list for the year 2008, 2011 and 2012 showing Kavita’s name listed as Ashiya. She also submitted copy of an affidavit given to the court by Ashiya in 2016 that “admitted” to her having adopted Islam and changed her name.
In her defence, Ashiya submitted an affidavit to the committee on 9 December 2019 saying that her marriage with Moazzam had taken place on 2 January 1997 as per Hindu rites in presence of her parents.
The affidavit said that at that time, she did not feel any need for registration of her marriage under the Special Marriage Act, 1954, but has done it now in New Delhi. She also submitted documents related to a request made by her to DM of Haridwar in 2010 to change her name from Ashiya to Kavita in the voter list.
After going through the documents, the committee concluded that the SC certificate obtained by Ashiya in 2011 “is not valid” and “the possibility of fraud played upon the Authorities in obtaining the said certificate by her is not ruled out”.
Here are the committee’s observations:
- Ashiya was a resident of Shahdara in New Delhi and belonged to ‘Jaatav Chamaar’ caste before she married Moazzam on 2 November 1997. That she changed her religion to Islam is mentioned in an affidavit by her in 2016. If a person converts to Islam despite belonging to a Scheduled Caste earlier, he or she is not entitled to get benefit of reservation, as per Clause 3 of the Constitution (Scheduled Caste) order, 1950.
- A look at her documents revealed that she was a minor at the time of her marriage and has changed her stand regarding her age as well as religion several times over the years for her objectives.
- Records show that she was given the SC certificate as well as a resident certificate of Uttarakhand on the same day – 25 January 2011. Ashiya was not entitled to get the SC certificate in Uttarakhand as she had already availed of a permanent resident certificate based on her marriage with Moazzam, a Muslim man.
- She was not entitled to get SC benefits in Uttarakhand because she was born in New Delhi and, as per the settled position of the law, reservation is state-specific. A person, upon migration to another state, is not entitled to the benefit of reservation as held by the Supreme Court in Sanjeev Kumar Verdi’s State of Bihar (2016) and Melvin Chiras Kujur Verdi’s State of Maharashtra and others (2015).
Subsequently, Ashiya’s SC certificate was quashed and she was removed from her position in the Zila Panchayat.
Bhupendra Pal Singh, president of Vishwa Dalit Parishad, told this correspondent that the police, however, have not arrested Ashiya despite several reminders.
He said the organisation would pursue the case till her arrest and conviction. “I have been accompanying Savita to Haridwar to record her statements. We are trying everything to expedite the matter, but the police are sitting on the case. Had the accused been a Hindu, the police would have arrested him in no time,” he said.
He also said that his organisation has been fighting cases of non-Dalits usurping constitutional benefits meant for Dalits for over a decade.
Until some years ago, the offenders used to be overwhelmingly non-Dalit Hindus, who would get fake SC certificates made in their names to secure government jobs under quota.
Now, he has been noticing an increasing trend of Muslim men marrying Dalit women and availing of SC benefits through them, he said.
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