Manipur High Court: In a civil writ petition, filed by several members of Meitei Tribe Union (‘petitioners’), seeking writ of mandamus, to direct the Government of Manipur (respondent) to submit recommendations to the Government of India to include Meitei community in the Schedule Tribe list. The bench comprising of M.V Muralidaran, Acting CJ, allowed the petition and directed the State to consider including the Meitei Community in the Scheduled Tribe list, within the period of four weeks.
The Meitei community had their tribal status before 21-09-1949, i.e., before signing the Merger Agreement with the Union of India (‘UOI’). However, while merging Manipur with the UOI, the Meitei community of Manipur had lost their status and identity of being tribals. The petitioner’s plea before the Court was to maintain their status of “tribe among tribes of Manipur” and include the community in the Schedule Tribe list of Constitution of India (‘Constitution’). Thus, the members of the Meitei Tribe Union approached the Court to direct the State to recommend the Government of India to include the Meitei community as Schedule Tribe in the Constitution.
The Court noted that on 18-04-2022, Meitei Tribe Union submitted a representation to the Union Minister of Tribal Affairs with a copy to 12 authorities, including the Chief Secretary, Government of Manipur seeking inclusion of Meitei Tribe in the list of Schedule Tribe under the Constitution. On 31.5.2022, the Ministry of Tribal Affairs forwarded the said representation letter to the Secretary, Government of Manipur. However, no reply was made to the said representation letter by the respondent State. Thus, the Court said that it was evident that a recommendation was pending to be made by the State in the said matter.
Further, the Court agreed with the submissions of the petitioners, that the State was violating the right to equality and right to life with dignity enshrined under Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution, as in the case of other tribes of the State, the respondent State had recommended the inclusion in the list of Schedule Tribe, without any hesitation, but in the case of the Meitei community, which is one of the major tribe of Manipur, the recommendations were not made by the respondent. The Court said that the petitioners and other Unions have been fighting for long years for inclusion of the Meitei community in the tribe list of Manipur.
The Court also noted that no reply was made by the State to the letter dated 29-05-2013 of the Government of India, Ministry of Tribal Affairs, seeking a reply for the recommendation. Thus, the Court said that the issue of inclusion of Meitei community in the list of Schedule Tribes of the Constitution was pending for nearly ten years and above, and no satisfactory explanation was given by the respondent State for not submitting the recommendation for the last 10 years.
Therefore, the Court directed the State to submit its recommendation in reply to the letter dated 29-05-2013 of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India. The Court also directed the respondent State to consider the inclusion of the Meitei community in the Scheduled Tribe list, expeditiously, preferably within a period four weeks.
[Mutum Churamani Meetei v. The State of Manipur, 2023 SCC OnLine Mani 156, Decided on 27-03-2023]