Manipur violence: Over 50,650 displaced people living in 350 relief camps
Manipur violence: Over 50,650 displaced people living in 350 relief campsIANS

The Manipur High Court, on Wednesday, deleted a portion of its earlier order directing the state government to consider including the majority Meitei community in the ST (Scheduled Tribes) list. The order, first passed on March 27, 2023, is widely believed to be the main trigger for the ethnic conflict between the majority Meitei community and the minority Kuki community in the state.

Last year, following the court order, violence broke out in the north-east of India, and till date, at least 215 lives have been lost and over 70,000 displaced, with the state still struggling to get back to normalcy. Many fear that the rift between communities has gained permanence and the social fabric of the state is forever altered.

Same people, seeking different orders

While acting on a review petition filed by six members of the Meitei Tribe Union (MTU), single judge bench of justice Golmei Gaiphulshilly passed another order, which in effect deleted portions of the court's earlier order wherein it had asked the state government to consider including Meiteis in the ST list. Interestingly, the same people filed a petition last year seeking inclusion of the community in the ST list.

What did the court say in its latest order?

The paragraph from the earlier order, which has been deleted, said, "The state government shall consider the case of the petitioners for inclusion of the Meetei/Meitei community in the Scheduled Tribes list expeditiously, preferably within a period of four weeks from the date of receipt of the order."

On May 9, 2023, the four year period in the order was extended to one year, after the state government sought an extension in time for the execution of the order. The order, at the time, would have enabled the Meiteis to purchase land in the hilly areas inhabited by tribals.

The order was soon afterwards challenged in the Supreme Court through a special leave petition. The Supreme Court Bench led by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud took strong exception to Manipur High Court order and said that it was not only factually incorrect but also against the principles laid down by the Constitution Benches of the Court on the classification of communities in the SC/ST list.

On Wednesday, the Manipur High Court in its fresh order, said that the controversial one passed on March 27, "needs to be reviewed," as it were, "against the observation made in the constitution bench of the Hon'ble Supreme Court." The new order further added, "The contentious paragraph from last year's verdict, instructing the state to expedite consideration of Meitei community inclusion, was deemed for deletion."

Justice chandrachud

In the wrong books of SC?

Last year, in September, CJI DY Chandrachud also disapproved of the manner in which the Manipur High Court admitted a PIL seeking to quash the fact-finding report on ethnic violence in Manipur. The report was published by the Editors Guild of India. Earlier in July, last year, the CJI also pulled up the Centre and Manipur government while disposing of a bunch of pleas on the ongoing violence in the state. One of the petitions also included the one where women were paraded naked, groped, and gang-raped before being filmed. He said that what happened in Manipur could not be justified by saying that this happened elsewhere at some other time too.