Fresh review petition in Manipur High Court seeks recall of order recommending ST status for Meiteis

No material has been produced before court to prove the backwardness of Meiteis; they aren’t “geographically isolated” either, says petitioner; HC to take up two review petitions on July 6

July 05, 2023 10:13 pm | Updated July 06, 2023 09:41 am IST - New Delhi

Members of Meira Paibis, a vigilante group of Meitei women, block traffic in Imphal on June 19, 2023.

Members of Meira Paibis, a vigilante group of Meitei women, block traffic in Imphal on June 19, 2023. | Photo Credit: AP

Even as the single-judge Bench of the Manipur High Court is set to hear a review petition filed by the Meitei Tribes Union (MTU) to modify its March 27 order that recommended Scheduled Tribe status for the community, a second review petition has been filed by a tribal body seeking recall of the order.

The second petition was filed by the Tribal Youth Volunteers’ Organization (TYVO), which is based out of Tamenglong district (dominated by Naga tribes) of the State.

Explained | The process of inclusion or exclusion from the Scheduled Tribes list 

The second petition argues that the MTU plea should not have been admitted because an appeal against the order is already under the consideration of the court. 

On March 27, Acting Chief Justice M.V. Muralidharan passed an order directing the State government in Manipur to recommend the inclusion of the Meitei community in the Scheduled Tribes (ST) list. The order, once made public on April 19, led to widespread protests across the State by both Naga and Kuki-Zomi tribes. After one such protest in Churachandpur on May 3, violence broke out, which quickly spread to rest of the State, taking the shape of the ethnic conflict, which is still continuing. 

Within days of the outbreak of violence, tribal bodies led by the All Manipur Tribal Union had filed an appeal against the March 27 order. Hearings have already begun on the appeal, with the Union government submitting that it would not be opposing the appeal. The MTU had objected to the appeal, so had the Manipur government. 

However, in the second week of June, as arguments were about to begin on the appeal listed before a Division Bench , the MTU filed a petition, seeking modification of a part of the March 27 order, along with a justification for the delay. Subsequently, the Division Bench said it would wait for the review to be heard before proceeding with the appeal. 

On June 19, Justice Muralidharan’s court admitted the review filed by the MTU, issued notices to the Union and State governments, and listed it for hearing on July 5.

However, now, in a petition filed before the High Court, the TYVO has sought a complete recall of the March 27 order, arguing that there was no application of mind in even asking the State government to consider the plea for inclusion on the ST list, let alone direct that the recommendation be made. With the second review in the picture, the High Court on Wednesday directed that both review petitions be listed together for hearing on July 6.

The TYVO further said in its petition that the review filed by the MTU was not maintainable because as per Section 114 read with Order 49 Rule 1 of the Civil Procedure Code, “once an appeal against the order of the learned single judge is filed before the Division Bench, no review is maintainable.”

The tribal body went on to say in that in this case, the MTU is essentially seeking to “rework” the order, so that a favourable order can be obtained directing the State and Union governments to consider the inclusion.

The petitioner tribal body went on to argue that no material was put before the High Court that pointed towards the backwardness of the Meitei community, which was a prerequisite to be categorised as a Scheduled Tribe. It also argued that, being occupants of the Valley region of Manipur for centuries and even now, the community could not claim to be “geographically isolated”.

Further, the TYVO submitted that the Meitei community had made no effort to be included in the list of tribes when the Kaka Kalelkar Commission of 1955 sought representations and neither did it to do so when similar representations were sought by the Lokur Commission a decade later. 

‘Political move’

The petitioners said the Meitei Tribes Union was registered as a union only in 2022, “for the sole purpose of filing this petition (the original writ petition)”. They added that the MTU had also made no serious efforts to scientifically prove the backwardness of the Meiteis. “This is only a political move parading as a legal initiative,” the petition said, adding that the review filed by the MTU seeks “re-arguments and a new order”, which is not permissible.

Also read | Manipur schools reopen after two months of violence

The Division Bench has already heard arguments from the tribal bodies led by the All Manipur Tribal Union on the appeal against the March 27 order. This matter is scheduled to come up for hearing on July 7.

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