Manipur High Court Modifies Order That Triggered Massive Tribal Unrest

High Court retracts directive amid ethnic unrest, citing misconception of law and Supreme Court precedent, ending controversial order

Update: 2024-02-22 13:00 GMT
Manipur High Court

Guwahati: In a significant development, the Manipur High Court on Thursday deleted the paragraph from the controversial March 27 order that directed the state government to send a recommendation on Scheduled Tribe status for the Meitei community.

It is significant that the order had triggered massive ethnic unrest in Manipur, with the tribal Kuki community opposing the court's direction.

The Bench of Justice Golmei Gaiphulshillu modified its order while hearing a review petition filed against para 17(iii) of the decision dated March 27 rendered by acting Chief Justice M.V. Muralidharan in a petition by the Meitei Tribe Union.

The bench stated that the judgment was passed in a "misconception of law" as the "petitioners failed to assist the court properly at the time of hearing of the said writ petition due to his misconception of fact and law".

The bench also noted that the order was contrary to the Supreme Court’s decision in the State of Maharashtra vs Milind and others, in which the top court had observed that courts cannot modify, amend or alter the ST list.

The detailed order of the bench read, “After joint perusal of the procedure laid down by the Government of India for inclusion in or exclusion from the list of Scheduled Tribe issued under Article 342 of the Constitution of India in Clause (g) of the Annual Report, 2013-14 of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India which has been also reproduced herein above and observation made by the Constitution Bench of the Hon'ble Supreme Court in State of Maharashtra V. Milind & Ors. [(2001) 1 SCC 4], I am satisfied and of the view that the direction given at Para No. 17(iii) ...needs to be reviewed, as the direction given at Para No. 17(iii) of the Hon'ble Single Judge is against the observation made in the Constitution Bench of the Hon'ble Supreme Court."

The bench directed, “Accordingly, the direction given at Para No. 17(iii) needs to be deleted and is ordered accordingly for deletion.”

The now-deleted para in the judgment stated: "The first respondent shall consider the case of the petitioners for inclusion of the Meetei/Meitei community in the Scheduled Tribe list, expeditiously, preferably within a period of four weeks from the date of receipt of a copy of this order in terms of the averments set out in the writ petition and in the line of the order passed in W.P.(C) No. 4281 of 2002 dated 26.05.2003 by the Gauhati High Court."

It is worthwhile to note that the March 27 order was initially appealed before a Division Bench of the Manipur High Court. However, last year, the Chairman, Hill Area Committee (HAC) of the Manipur Legislative Assembly also moved the Supreme Court against the same.

On considering the order, a Supreme Court Bench led by CJI DY Chandrachud took strong exception to it. It was said that the order was not only factually incorrect but also against the principles laid down by the Constitution Benches of the Court on the classification of communities in the SC/ST list.

The Supreme Court however did not stay the March 27 order, as an appeal before Division Bench of the High Court had been filed. The parties were left at liberty to raise their grievances in the proceedings before the Division Bench. Now, in pursuance of the order in the review petition, the direction stands deleted and the order was modified.


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