Supreme Court: While hearing a set of petitions challenging the order of Manipur High Court, wherein the State of Manipur was directed to consider recommending the Centre to include the Meitei Community in the Scheduled Tribe list of Constitution of India, within the period of four weeks, the three Judge Bench comprising of Chief Justice of India Dr. D.Y Chandrachud, P.S Narasimha and J.B. Pardiwala, JJ., noted the status report filed by the Centre and State Government on Manipur violence. It was also said that it is open for the aggrieved parties to make submissions before the Division Bench of the High Court as a Writ Appeal was filed against the impugned order.
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. Thus, the members of the Meitei Tribe Union approached the High Court. The High Court directed the State of Manipur to consider the inclusion of the Meitei community in the Scheduled Tribe list, expeditiously, within a period four weeks.
As a result of the said decision, violence broke out between the people of Meitei community and Kuki community in the State. The violence in the State had reached such heights that the Centre Government had to intervene to control the situation. Thus, different petitions were filed before the Court seeking probe into the violence and challenging the High Court’s decision.
In a previous order of the Court, the Bench had expressed its concern over loss of human life, destruction of homesteads and directed the authorities to provide medical care in relief camps. The Court had also directed the State of Manipur to apprise the Court about the steps taken to provide relief and rehabilitative measures.
A status report was filed on behalf of the State before the Court as sought by the Court in its previous order. The status report indicated that steps have been taken to bring normalcy to the law and order situation in the State, security measures taken for protecting religious places, transportation of persons who were stranded due to the ongoing crisis, FIRs have been registered. The status report also mentioned the details of the relief camps and compensation packages made available to the public on account of death or injury.
The State also informed the Court about developments before the High Court, firstly that a writ appeal has been filed by the Manipur Tribal Union against the impugned order given by Justice M V Murlidharan and the division Bench of the High Court had issued notice in the same.
Secondly, an application was moved by the State before Justice Murlidharan, who passed the impugned order for extension of time to implement the order to which extension of period of one year was granted.
The Court left it open to the parties who are aggrieved by the order of the Single Judge to make appropriate submissions before the division Bench, since the Writ Appeal is pending before the Division Bench of the High Court. Further, the Court said that any party aggrieved by an order passed by the Division Bench would be at liberty to pursue its rights and remedies before the Court.
The Court directed the authorities who are entrusted with monitoring the law and order situation in the State to consider the apprehensions expressed by the petitioners regarding the threats to safety. It was also directed that the competent authorities should immediately attend to the grievances after due verification and take appropriate measures as are required to foster confidence and ensure peace and tranquility.
The Court will further hear the petitions on 17-07-2023.
[Dinganglung Gangmei v. Mutum Churamani Meetei, 2023 SCC OnLine SC 660, Order Dated: 17-05-2023]