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Manipur HC Allows Tribal Bodies to Appeal Order on ST status for Meiteis

The court said that the main grievances raised by the applicant is that they will be prejudicially affected if they are not given a chance to object to the order.
 Live Law

Imphal: The Manipur High Court (HC) has allowed tribal organisations in the state to file an appeal against the controversial March 27 order, which directed the state government to send a recommendation on ST status for the Meitei community.

A Division Bench of Justices Ahanthem Bimol and Guneshwar Sharma in an order on Thursday allowed the tribal bodies to appeal against the order.

“The main grievances raised by the applicant is that they will be prejudicially affected if they are not given a chance to have a say or to raise objection in the matter of granting ST status to the Meitei community,” the court said.

A single-Judge Bench had passed the controversial order on a petition filed by members of the Meitei Tribes Union seeking that the state government be directed to act on their pleas for inclusion in the ST list.

The March 27 order, passed by then-acting Chief Justice MV Muralidharan, led to widespread objections from Kuki Zo bodies which were followed by a rally, organised by the All Tribal Students Union (ATSUM) on May 3, during which violence broke at Torbung, Churachandpur, district and became the trigger for the ethnic violence, which has so far claimed, at least, 180 lives.

The court informed:“Taking into consideration the nature of arguments advanced by the learned counsel appearing for the parties, which needs to be examined and decided on the basis of the materials available in the connected writ appeal, and writ petition and taking into consideration the grievances raised by the applicants, we are inclined to grant leave sought by the applicants in the present application.” 

Appearing for the tribal bodies,advocate Collin Gonsalves argued that“if the Meitei community is wrongly granted ST status, it will adversely affect the existing tribal ST in employment and education, where reservation for STs exists, and that the Meitei community being dominant and advanced politically, economically and educationally will grab majority of the ST reserved seats.” 

Senior advocate M Hemchandra, appearing for the respondents, informed that “in spite of having records of Meitei community as Meitei tribes”, they “had been left out at the time of preparation of ST list under the Constitution”.A

“Meitei tribes have approached authorities concerned for the last so many years but failed to consider for initiation of process for inclusion into the ST lists,” he said. 

Even though the March 27 order has been interpreted as the immediate cause for the ethnic strife in the state, chief minister N Biren Singh has consistently linked the violence to the state government’s  campaign against drugs and poppy cultivation in the hills and due to the unrest caused by illegal immigrants from Myanmar.

On August 9, Union home minister Amit Shah had remarked in Parliament that political instability in neighbouring Myanmar had forced many Kukis to flee to Manipur for safety.

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