The State government will question the maintainability of the suit filed by the Maharashtra government under Article 131(b) and urge the Supreme Court to dismiss it when it comes up for hearing on Tuesday, K.N. Bengeri, member, Karnataka Maharashtra Border Dispute Special Legal Advisory Committee, has said.

Mr. Bengeri, who has been closely working on defending the State’s case with other legal luminaries, sought to address apprehensions and confusions about the border dispute and the State’s stand at a press conference here on Sunday.

He said that the original civil suit filed under Article 131(b) was not maintainable and had to be dismissed.

The Maharashtra government filed the suit before the Supreme Court on March 29, 2004 staking its claim to 814 villages in Belgaum, Uttara Kannada, Bidar and Gulbarga districts, as was claimed by the Government of Bombay in 1957. The Union government and the State of Karnataka are the defendants.

Mahajan Commission

The Justice M.C. Mahajan Commission, which was appointed on October 25, 1966, to hear the parties concerned, submitted its report to the Centre on August 25, 1967. However, Maharashtra did not accept the recommendations.

Mr. Bengeri said that the Maharashtra government’s case suffered from several infirmities as evident by various interlocutory applications for exemption before the Supreme Court.

He said that the Union government had made it abundantly clear in its replies that the recommendations of both the States Reorganisation Commission and the Mahajan Commission were fair. The Union government also made it clear that it had not shown any favour to the State, while accepting recommendations of the two commissions.

Centre’s affidavit

The Union government filed its first affidavit on August 28, 2006 (when Shivraj Patil was Union Home Minister) but withdrew it within 24 hours. The first affidavit stated: “The plaint does not disclose a cause of action and is liable to be returned; the present suit is not maintainable in law. The dispute concerns boundaries of the plaintiff and defendant No 2 (Karnataka). In view of the submissions herein above and the factual and legal position that obtains, it is submitted that the prayers are not liable to be granted.”

However, this observation did not appear in the amended affidavit filed after 24 hours. The reason was obvious and clearly showed that the suit did not attract Article 131(b), Mr. Bengeri said.

Further the contests of the Union government’s affidavits reiterated that both States Reorganisation Commission and Mahajan Commission reports were impartial and hence, were accepted.

Interestingly, the Union government had, in one of its counter affidavit, stated: “That no substantial question of law is involved in the present application and the same is liable to be dismissed with exemplary cost against the plaintiff and in favour of Respondent No 1 (Union government).”

This statement, Mr. Bengeri observed, substantiated the contention of the State that the plaint under Article 131(b) was liable to be dismissed for the reason that it was not acceptable since no substantial question of law was involved in the plaint. Article 131(b) explicitly states that it does not become operative unless there was an “existence or extent of legal rights”.

He said that as per the suggestion of the Supreme Court itself, advocates of both the States held careful discussions, wherein “maintainability of the suit under Article 131(b)” was one of the important preliminary issues to be taken up by the court first.

Even the Union government had maintained that the whole disputed territory was not an international border issue but belonged to the Indian Union. Article 3 was a complete answer wherein it would ultimately be for Parliament to decide whether it would demarcate the borders between the States.

Appeal

Meanwhile, advocate M.V. Chavan of the Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti has appealed to the President to constitute an Inter-State Council aimed at exploring other options instead of keeping faith in the Supreme Court, Mr. Bengari observed.

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