Manipur: Meitei members to file contempt proceedings against HAC

The Hill Areas Committee of the Manipur Assembly had recently unanimously resolved to oppose the inclusion of Meitei in the state’s ST list

May 01, 2023 10:41 pm | Updated 10:41 pm IST - New Delhi

Some members of the Meitei community in Manipur, which has been seeking Scheduled Tribe status for decades, have now said that they intend to file contempt proceedings against the Hill Areas Committee (HAC) of the Manipur Legislative Assembly, which recently passed a resolution opposing their inclusion.

Weeks after the Manipur High Court ordered the State government to recommend the inclusion of the Meitei community in the Scheduled Tribes list, the HAC, on April 20, passed a resolution opposing the high court’s order and called for the Union government and the State government to appeal it.

Also read: Manipur HC directs State to consider inclusion of Meitei community in ST list

The HAC was set up through a 1972 order and comprises legislators of all constituencies that fall partly or wholly within the State’s hilly areas.

In a resolution passed last month, the HAC said that it was aggrieved by the order of the Manipur High Court, which directed the State government to send the recommendation for inclusion expeditiously.

The resolution, signed by the Chairman of the HAC, Dinganglung Gangmei (BJP), said that the order should be appealed keeping in mind the sentiments, interests and rights of existing Scheduled Tribes of Manipur.

Currently categorised as OBCs or SCs, the Meitei people dominate in more than half the State’s Assembly constituencies. A majority of them identify as Hindu while about 8% are Muslim.

The HAC, in the resolution, said, “In this matter, the HAC as a Constitutional Body of the Hill Areas of Manipur was neither made a party to the case nor consulted. The HAC also has never given any recommendation or consent [for inclusion of Meitei in ST list].”

While the high court order was passed on March 27 and the HAC resolution was passed on April 20, no appeal has yet been filed against the high court order, according to advocate Ajoy Pebam, who represented community members in the Manipur High Court.

Mr. Pebam said, “The HAC has no jurisdiction to pass such a resolution without the Speaker’s permission and this amounts to criminal contempt. We will be filing to initiate contempt proceedings against HAC soon.” He added that not being recognised as STs was resulting in community members not being able to settle in hill areas.

The community, through the Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee, Manipur, has been demanding ST status for decades now. They argue that they had been listed as one of the tribes of Manipur before it merged with India in 1949 but that they lost this tag when the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950 was drafted. Claiming that they had thus been left out of the ST list, they had persisted with their demands.

However, their demand has seen stiff opposition from Adivasi students’ unions, representing the existing 36 ST communities of the State, who have argued that granting Meitei ST status would defeat the purpose of protecting tribal communities through reservation.

As per the procedure for inclusion of a community in the ST list, any such recommendation must originate with a proposal from the concerned State or UT government. This proposal is then sent by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs to the Office of the Registrar General of India. Once the Office of the RGI concurs to the inclusion, the National Commission of Scheduled Tribes must also do the same.

Only then is the proposal sent to the Cabinet, following which a Bill needs to be passed in Parliament permitting the President of India to notify the inclusion.

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