Gujarat HC summons BJP MLA over plea challenging her caste certificate

Ms. Suthar won the by-election to the Morva Hadaf Assembly constituency (in Panchmahals district), reserved for the Scheduled Tribe (ST) candidates, on May 2 this year

The Gujarat High Court has issued summons to BJP MLA Nimisha Suthar and the Election Commission of India on a petition filed by Congress’s Suresh Katara who lost to Ms. Suthar, challenging her caste certificate submitted for the bypoll to Morva Hadaf constituency, which is reserved for the Scheduled Tribe candidates.

Justice Nikhil S. Kariel on Monday issued summons to Suthar and other respondents, including the election officer and the Election Commission of India, under provisions of the Representation of the People Act, and asked them to appear before the HC on August 2.

Ms. Suthar won the by-election to the Morva Hadaf Assembly constituency (in Panchmahals district), reserved for the Scheduled Tribe (ST) candidates, on May 2 this year, by defeating her Congress rival Mr. Katara.

Mr. Katara recently filed an election petition in the HC, seeking a direction to set aside Ms. Suthar’s election, alleging that the caste certificate submitted by her to the EC was "false and unverified".

Ms. Suthar had won the by-election, necessitated due to the death of Independent MLA Bhupendra Khant in January this year.

Mr. Khant’s caste certificate was earlier invalidated by the Gujarat government, after which he was disqualified as an MLA.

Mr. Khant had challenged the governor’s decision to disqualify him, which was pending in the court before being rendered infructuous and disposed of following his death.

In his plea, Mr. Katara claimed that Suthar did not belong to the ST community and her caste certificate was false and submitted without any verification.

The petitioner said he had made a representation against Suthar’s nomination form before the Returning Officer ahead of the bypoll, but the officer rejected his objection "without any proper appreciation of the facts", and accepted the BJP leader’s nomination.

"The respondent (Ms. Suthar) is not a member of the ST and the caste certificate issued in her favour is clearly false and submitted without any verification," Mr. Katara said in his plea.

He alleged that the MLA usurped the right of a genuine ST person through her fraudulent act.

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