Imphal, Oct 21: The Manipur High Court has allowed an appeal against its controversial March 27 order which directed the state government to send a recommendation to the Union Tribal Affairs Ministry to consider the Scheduled Caste status for the Meitei community, court sources said on Saturday.
A High Court official said that a division bench of Justice Ahanthem Bimol and Justice Guneshwar Sharma, in its Friday order, allowed the four tribal bodies to appeal against the order, saying: "The main grievances raised by the applicant is that they will be prejudicially affected if they are not given a chance to have a say or to raise objection in the matter of granting ST status to the Meitei community."
The tribal bodies include All Tribal Student Union Manipur (ATSUM) and All Manipur Tribal Union.
Justice M.V. Muralidharan, who was acting Chief Justice of Manipur High Court and recently been transferred to the Calcutta High Court, had passed the earlier order on a petition filed by members of the Meitei community seeking that the state government be directed to act on their pleas for inclusion in the ST list.
The division bench said: "Taking into consideration the nature of arguments of counsel appearing for the parties which needs to be examined and decided on the basis of the materials available in the connected writ appeal and writ petition and taking into consideration the grievances raised by the applicants, we are inclined to grant leave sought by the applicants in the present application."
Lawyer Collin Gonsalves, appearing for the tribal bodies, argued that "if the Meitei community is wrongly granted ST status, then this will adversely affect the existing tribal ST in employment and education where reservation for STs exist and that the Meitei community being dominant and advanced politically, economically and educationally will grab majority of the ST reserved seats".
Advocate M. Hemchandra, appearing for the respondents, said that "in spite of having records of Meitei community as Meitei tribes", they "had been left out at the time of preparation of ST list under the Constitution of India" and that "Meitei tribes have approached authorities concerned for the last many years but failed to consider for initiation of process for inclusion into the ST lists."
The high court on March 27 had directed the state government to submit the recommendation to the Union Tribal Affairs Ministry to consider inclusion of Meitei (Meetei) community to ST list by May 29. This had snowballed into major controversy with thousands of tribals on May 3 turned up for the ‘Tribal Solidarity March’ called by ATSUM in all the ten hill districts of Manipur to oppose the demand for inclusion of the Meitei community in the ST category causing large-scale violence afterwards.
According to Manipur Police, as many as 175 people were killed, 1,108 others injured while 32 are missing in the ongoing ethnic strife which started on May 3.