1. Common question involved is as to whether petitioners who undisputedly belong to 'Kotegar' community are of Scheduled caste within the meaning of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Amendment) Act, 1976 (hereinafter referred to as the 'Act') or not.
2. Petitioners secured certain promotions, after they were permitted to take promotional examinations, as persons belonging to Scheduled Caste. But, subsequently visited with reversion to their original cadre as Clerks, since Bank in which they are working is of the opinion that they do not belong to Scheduled Caste.
Letter dt. 19th Nov. 1981 emanated from the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, New Delhi which reads thus: -
'Subject: Issue of Caste certificate belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes persons clarification.
I am directed to refer to your letter No. 2314/81 RU dt. 24th October 1981 on the subject mentioned above and to say that according to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Orders (Amendment) Act, 1976, 'Kotegar, Metri' community is specified as Scheduled Castes in the whole of Karnataka State.
2. Prior to the enforcement of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Orders (Amendment) Act, 1976, the 'Kotegar, Metri' community was treated as Scheduled Castes only in Kanara District. As per the recommendation of the Joint Committee on the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Orders (Amendment) Bill 1967, Area restrictions were removed for Kotegar, Metri community by the said Act and now this community is a Scheduled Caste throughout the Karnataka State.
3. In view of the position explained above it may be mentioned that only persons belonging to Kotegar, Metri community are entitled to enjoy all the benefits as admissible to other Scheduled Castes in the State of Karnataka and persons belonging to Kotegar community are not (repeat not) entitled to enjoy any benefit as Scheduled Castes on the ground that Kotegar community has been recognised as Backward Class community as per the orders of the State Government of Karnataka.'
appears to have given rise to this controversy.
3. Contents of letter, extracted above, give a complete history as to how 'Kotegar' community which was treated as Backward Caste in major parts of the State of Karnataka, has been subsequently treated as Scheduled Caste in entire State of Karnataka. Item No. 55 of Part VII of Schedule annexed to the Act mentions 'Kotegar, Metri' as one of the Scheduled Caste in the State of Karnataka.
4. Though para 2 of the letter extracted above correctly recites that persons belonging to 'Kotegar' community are of Schedule Caste, latter part (para 3) has wiped out the declaration of the Act. Wherever caste is known by a compound term (or composite term) advisedly it is described by placing hyphen' in between words comprising term) de item No. 3 of Part IV (Gujarat) - Bawaedh, Dedh-Sadhu or by placing comma after the term vide item 19 - Beda Jangam, Budga Jangam; 29-Chenna Dasar, Holaya Dasar; 35 - Ganti Chorea; 98 Sadugadu Sidha etc., of Part VII of Schedule (Karnataka). Likewise, where same caste is known by different names or bears synonymous terms, those names have been mentioned conveying that it relates to same or nearly the same caste placing 'comma' after each name vide item Nos. 21 - Bhangi, Mehtar, Olgana, Rukhi, Malkana, Halalkhor, Lalbegi, Balmiki, Korar, Zadmalli; 22 - BhamK BhambK Asadaru, Asoa Chamadia, Chamar, Chambhar, Champer, Hara, Layya, Harali, Khalpa, Machigor, Moc'higar, Madar, Madig, Mochi, Much Telegu Mochi, Kamati Mochi, Ranigar, Rohidas, Rohit, Samagar; 32 - Dhor, Kdkkayya, Kankayya; 72 - Mang Matang, Minimad; 73 - Mang Garud Mang Garo etc., of Part VII of the Schedule. Multi-names mentioned placing 'comma' cannot be treated as a composite term of a particular caste, but it has incorporated synonymous terms referring to the same caste.
5. Punctuation 'comma' between' Kotegar and Metri' itself indicates that it is, not a composite word of a particular caste, but a caste bearing different nomenclature. Court should read this item with 'comma' as inserted in between these words, as grammatically it should be, so that Legislative intendment and meaning is reasonably clear. From item No. 55 extracted above Legislature has carefully punctuated and its due weight must be given. Description of various castes in the manner referred to above leads to an irresistible conclusion that 'Kotegar and Metri' are synonymous terns of the same caste and not the caste by name 'Kotegar Metri'.
6. State Government in its Circular dt. 29th Nov. 1977 while issuing instructions to subordinates regarding issue of caste certificate has itself stated that, Kotegar, Metri' consists of KoteKsha triya, Kotegara, Kotegar. Further, in G.O. No. SWL 12 TBS 77 dt 23-11978 while ordering deletion of this caste from the list of Backward Caste since it is included in Scheduled Castes Order, it is stated thus: - Kotegar and Metri be deleted. This only lend support to the view that State has treated them as synonymous terms of the same caste and not a composite term of a single caste.
7. It is admitted that these petitioners belong to 'Kotegar' community and on account of inclusion of this caste in schedule appended to the Act they are of Scheduled Caste, consequently entitled to all privileges including reservations to which that community is entitled to.
8. In view of this declaration, impugned orders of reversion reverting petitioners as Clerks are hereby quashed; they are entitled to all consequential benefits. Writ petitions succeed. Rule made absolute.
9. Rule made absolute.