HC summons HAC Chairman, ATSUM Prez over ST demand

TMB Report

Imphal: The High Court of Manipur has asked Hill Areas Committee (HAC) Chairman Dinganglung Gangmei who is also the MLA of Nungba AC, and All Tribal Students’ Union Manipur (ATSUM) President Paotinthang Lupheng to appear before the court on April 8 for criticising the judgment passed by the court in connection with the demand for inclusion of Meetei/Meitei in the ST list. The court sought explanation from the duo as to why action should not be taken under the Contempt of Court of them.

The court directed the Director General of Police (DGP) to ensure their personal appearance for instigating innocent hill people against the order passed by the court.

The court in its order passed on March 27 had directed respondent N0.1 (Dinganglung Gangmei) to submit the recommendation in reply to a letter dated May 29 last of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India.

The first respondent shall consider the case of the petitioner for inclusion of the Meetei/Meitei community in the Scheduled Tribe list, expeditiously, preferably within a period four weeks from the date of receipt of a copy of this order of this order in terms of the averments set out in the writ petition and in the line order passed in WP(C) No. 4281 of 2002 dated May 26 by the Gauhati High Court, the High Court of Manipur ruled.

After passing the order, the respondent No.1 issued a resolution on April 20 which reads, “The Hill Areas Committee, Manipur Legislative Assembly is perturbed/aggrieved by the Order of Hon’ble Court of Manipur dated April 19 in Writ Petition No. 229 of 2023 directing the Government of Manipur to recommend for inclusion of Meitei/Meetei community in the Scheduled Tribe list of the Constitution of India in Spite of Strong opposition from the Scheduled Tribes of Manipur”.

“In the matter, the HAC as a Constitutional Body of the Hill Areas of Manipur was neither made party to the case nor consulted. The HAC also has given any recommendation or consent. Further, it is pertinent to mention that the Meitei/Meetei community of Manipur are already protected under Constitution of India and categorized as (i) General (ii) Other Backward Classes (OBC) and (iii) Scheduled Cast (SC). In view of the above, the committee unanimously resolved to urge the Government of Manipur and Government of India to go for Appeals against the aforementioned Order of the Hon’ble High Court of Manipur, taking into account the sentiments and interests/rights of the Scheduled Tribe of Manipur,” it stated.

Thereafter, the second respondent (ATSUM President) also issued a press statement dated April 21 which reads, “April 19 is a black letter day for the tribal people of Manipur. The High Court judgement which directed the State Government to recommend the demand of Meitei for inclusion in the ST list by contradicting the wish and aspiration of the tribal people is unfortunate and deplorable. It is an ex parte judgement that only heard the interests of the petitioners. The demand of ST status by the socially and economically advanced community of the state is uncalled for. lt deeply disturbs the sense of security of the tribal people who are otherwise protected under the provisions of the constitutions”.  

“The tribal community have been opposing this demand on valid reasons that the Meitei community, which is comparatively an advanced community, does not merit their inclusion as scheduled tribe in the constitutions. It completely negates the very objective of scheduling groups of people for protective discrimination as ST in the constitutions. Therefore, the tribal people of the state will not take this judgment lying down. We blame the state government because of whose consent such an ex parte judgment was delivered. We will explore all options including legal means to dissuade the state government from recommending it to the central government. We will continue to strongly oppose this demand. The State Government must desist from recommending this demand as it completely affects the rights and interests of the tribal people, and also as the demand has the potential of adversely affecting the unity and integrity of the people of the state. We also appeal to the State Government to uphold the emotional integrity of the state which is bound to disintegrate once the demand for inclusion of Meitei in ST is granted. The meeting of the tribal students’ organisations of the State convened by ATSUM on April 21 acknowledge the prompt action of the HAC for taking into account the sentiments, rights and interest of the scheduled tribes of Manipur with respect to the ST demand”.

The senior counsel of the petitioner further argued that the tribal people of the State will not take with judgment and order lying down thereby directly threatening the authority of the Hon’ble High Court of Manipur.

Contending that the Act of the respondent No. 1 and 2 amounts to contempt and they should be punished under the Contempt of Court Act, 1971; he prayed the Court to issue notice to the respondents and deal the same seriously.