Supreme Court: In the issue relating to admissibility of the certificate issued by Gram Panchayat Secretary as a proof of citizenship, the bench of Ranjan Gogoi and RF Nariman, JJ held that the said document can be used to establish a linkage between the holder of such certificate and the person(s) from whom legacy is being claimed after it clears a 2-step verification process. The steps include:

  • authenticity of the certificate itself.
  • the authenticity of the contents thereof.

The Court explained:

“The latter process of verification is bound to be an exhaustive process in the course of which the source of information of the facts and all other details recorded in the certificate will be ascertained after giving an opportunity to the holder of the certificate.”

The Court was hearing a batch of appeals against the order of the Gauhati High Court had held the Gram Panchayat certificate, submitted under ‘illustrative list of documents admissible’ as a supporting document, to be invalid in law.

Noticing that the Gram Panchayat Certificate merely acknowledges the shifting of residence of a married woman from one village to another, the Court made it clear that the said certificate by itself and by no means establishes any claim of citizenship of the holder of the certificate but will only its holder to establish a link between the holder and the person from whom legacy is claimed.

The Court, however, said:

“If the document and its contents is to be subjected to a thorough search and probe we do not see why the said certificate should have been interdicted by the High Court, particularly, in the context of the facts surrounding the enumeration and inclusion of the documents mentioned in the illustrative list of documents, as noticed above.”

Stating that the said document can in no manner be considered a ‘private document’, the Court held that Gram Panchayat Certificate can, however, be acted upon only to establish a linkage between the holder of such certificate and the person(s) from whom legacy is being claimed. It was made clear that the certificate will be put to such limited use only if the contents of the certificate are found to be established on due and proper enquiry and verification. [Rupajan Begum v. Union of India, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 1411, decided on 05.12.2017]

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