The Manipur High Court revokes the directive to add Meiteis to the ST List and deletes the order that caused ethnic conflict

A March 2023 ruling urging the state to explore adding the Meitei people to the Scheduled Tribe List was ordered to have a paragraph removed by the Manipur High Court since it contradicted the Supreme Court’s position on the constitution bench.

The March 27, 2023, decree, which is said to have been the impetus for ethnic rioting that resulted in the deaths of over 200 people, was revoked on Wednesday at a review petition hearing by a single judge bench of Justice Golmei Gaiphulshillu.

The controversial sentence from the previous year’s decision, which directed the state to speed the process of considering Meitei community inclusion, was decided to be removed.

The state government “shall consider the case of the petitioners for inclusion of the Meetei/Meitei community in the Scheduled Tribes list, expeditiously, preferably within a period of four weeks” from the date of receipt of the judgment, according to a clause in last year’s ruling.

In his verdict on February 21, Justice Gaiphulshillu emphasized the need to repeal the order and cited the Government of India’s established process for making changes to the Scheduled Tribe List.

According to Justice Gaiphulshillu, “Accordingly, the direction given at para no. 17(iii) needs to be deleted and is ordered accordingly for deletion of the para no. 17(iii) of the judgment and order dated March 27, 2023…” .

The court emphasized the requirement for conformity with the Supreme Court’s constitutional interpretation, citing the constitutional procedure described in the Ministry of Tribal Affairs’ 2013–14 report.

“…I am satisfied and of the view that the direction given at Para no. 17(iii) of the single judge dated March 27, 2023…which is impugned herein needs to be reviewed, as the direction given at para no. 17(iii) of the single judge is against the observation made in the constitution bench of the Supreme Court,” the court stated in its 19-page decision.

In its comprehensive 19-page decision, the high court emphasized the legislative restrictions on judicial meddling with Scheduled Tribe designations, as delineated by a November 2000 constitution bench decision.

“Courts cannot and should not expand jurisdiction to deal with the question as to whether a particular caste, sub-caste; a group or part of tribe or sub-tribe is included in any one of the Entries mentioned in the Presidential Orders issued under Article 341 and 342, particularly so when in Clause (2) of the said Article, it is expressly stated that said orders cannot be amended or varied except by law made by Parliament,” the decision rendered by the Constitutional Court in the month of November 2000 stated.

The Constitution Bench clarified that while making these classifications, courts shouldn’t go beyond their authority.

The Supreme Court was submitted with a number of applications, including challenges to the high court decree, after the outburst of violence following the March 27 ruling.

On May 17 of the same year, the top court referred to the high court’s ruling as “obnoxious” and thought about rescinding it because of what it saw as errors.

Chief Justice DY Chandrachud led a bench that said, “I’ll tell you (legal professionals) one thing: the high court ruling was wrong. I believe that the high court’s ruling has to be suspended. The supreme court’s ruling is totally incorrect.

Due to the fact that the appeals against the verdict were still ongoing with the bigger division bench in the Manipur High Court, the bench of the supreme court had made it plain that it would not address any legal matters emanating from that judgment.

Because the challenges were before a bigger division bench, the Supreme Court held off on addressing the fundamental legal issues resulting from the Manipur High Court’s ruling during the legal debate.

The court welcomed tribe members to participate in the continuing legal processes concerning the intra-court appeals, especially Kukis.

The Meitei community’s desire for Scheduled Tribe classification has caused deadly conflict in Manipur, which highlights the region’s diverse ethnic makeup.

Manipur’s tribal population, which includes the Nagas and Kukis, makes up 40% of the population and is mostly concentrated in the hill regions. Meiteis, on the other hand, make up around 53% of the total and are primarily found in the Imphal Valley.

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