Manipur HC order for inclusion of Meitei in ST list ‘Factually Incorrect’: Supreme Court

New Delhi: The Supreme Court while hearing slew of petitions seeking the intervention of the top court over Manipur violence on Wednesday pulled up Manipur High Court for its recent direction to the Manipur government to submit a recommendation to the Tribal Affairs Ministry for the inclusion of the Meitei/Meetei community in the Scheduled Tribe list of the Indian Constitution within a period four weeks from the date of the order.

Acting Chief Justice of the High Court of Manipur, Justice MV Muralidharan, who assumed office on February 6, 2023 directed the same during the final disposal of a Civil Writ Petition filed by eight members of Meetei (Meitei) Tribe Union led by Union Secretary Mutum Churamani Meetei.

Related | HC Manipur directs state govt to submit recommendation for inclusion of Meitei/Meetei in ST list

Amid the ongoing demand and opposition to accord ST status to the non-tribal which triggered massive ethnic clashes between the Kuki-Zomi tribals and the Meitei community, a bench of Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, Justices P S Narasimha and J B Pardiwala Wednesday said that Justice MV Muralidharan’s judgment was factually incorrect.

The bench also said the judgement was against the principles laid down by the Supreme Court Constitution bench judgments as regards classification of communities as Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes.

“We have to stay the order of the Manipur HC. It is completely factually wrong and we gave time to Justice Muralidharan to remedy his error and he did not..we have to take a strong view against it now,” Bar & Bench quoted CJI DY Chandrachud as saying.

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The Supreme Court also asked Manipur government to file a fresh report of all the relief and rehabilitation efforts made thus far on Wednesday.

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Several tribal civil organisations such as the United Naga Council (UNC), the apex Naga civil body strongly condemned the March 27, 2023 inane order of the Manipur High Court. UNC in its condemnation observed that the Manipur HC directing the government of Manipur to recommend inclusion of Meitei/ Meetei community in the ST category is irrational. It further added that such order negates the sole objective of scheduling group of people for protective discrimination as ST in the Constitution of India.

Similarly, the Kuki Inpi Manipur (KIM), the apex body of the Kuki tribals strongly condemned the direction of the Manipur HC. “The ST communities of Manipur have consistently opposed the inclusion of Meitei/Meetei, fearing the loss of job opportunities and other affirmative actions granted to STs by the Constitution of India to the much advanced Meetei community,” KIM said.

Related | STDCM seeks MP Lorho S Pfoze’s support to ST tag for Meitei/Meetei in Manipur

In a condemnation note the Kuki apex body stated that the Meetei/Meitei community, which constitutes about 60% of the total population of Manipur and holds 40 out of 60 seats in the Manipur Legislative Assembly, is considered an advanced community that has not been recognized as STs by successive governments.

It may be also noted that the All Tribal Students’ Union, Manipur (ATSUM) had demanded that delimitation exercise should be carried out in the state of Manipur at the earliest in March 2023. The sub-committee comprising of representatives from the All Naga Students’ Association, Manipur (ANSAM), the Kuki Students’ Organisation (KSO) and the ATSUM deliberated on the issue in which serious concerns were raised as to why the Election Commission of India fails to conduct delimitation in the state of Manipur and why the state government is silent on the matter.

Must read | Why The Meitei Community In Manipur Is Demanding The Scheduled Tribe Status?

“This is akin to violation of the fundamental rights under Article 14 of the Constitution of India and as such the ATSUM demands that delimitation exercise may be carried out in the state of Manipur at the earliest,” the apex Kuki tribal student body of Manipur had demanded.

Widespread clashes broke in Manipur on May 3 evening, when the ATSUM, the apex tribal student body organised Tribal Solidarity March in Manipur hill districts — Senapati, Ukhrul, Kangpokpi, Tamenglong, Churachandpur, Chandel, Tengnoupal. The solidarity march themed, Come now let’s reason together, was aimed against the demand for inclusion of Meitei/Meetei community of the State in the Scheduled Tribe (ST) list.

Must read | Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge constituted Fact-Finding team on Manipur violence

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