Saturday, October 18, 2014

SC directs Centre to complete exercise to consider tribal list expansion and seats for STs by 30 Nov

Following intimation by the Government of India, the Supreme Court has granted the Centre time till 30 November to “complete the exercise” of exploring the possibility of declaring all the indigenous communities of Sikkim as Scheduled Tribes and taking a call on seats to be reserved in the legislative assembly for Scheduled Tribes [at present, Assembly seats are reserved only for BLs, SCs and Sangha in Sikkim].
The Ministry of Home Affairs is reported to have informed the Supreme Court that seat reservation for Limboo and Tamang communities in the Sikkim Legislative Assembly by virtue of their having been declared ST was about to be resolved and also sought more time to take appropriate decision on inclusion of more communities into the Scheduled Tribes list. The former issue is significant in light of the still awaited ST reserved seats for the Limboo and Tamang communities even though they were included in the Scheduled Tribes list as far back as in 2002.
The Supreme Court has accordingly granted the Government of India a “last chance” to complete the due exercise on the consideration of other indigenous Sikkimese communities into tribal category.
The result of the deliberations and the exercise conducted by the Union of India should be filed by way of an affidavit well before 30 November 2014, the Court has ordered.
A division bench of the apex court comprising of Justice Madan B Lokur and Justice C Nagappan, in an order passed on 16 September 2014, has directed for the “exercise” detailed in a letter submitted to it by the GoI to be completed forthwith and granted two months time to the Union of India i.e. till 30 November 2014 further making it clear that no further time will be granted for this purpose.
The Apex court has further directed the Union Government that the result of the deliberations and the exercise conducted by the Union of India should be filed by way of an affidavit well before 30 November, 2014. The matter itself is listed for final disposal in the first week of December 2014.
The senior counsel appearing on the behalf of Union of India had placed on record a letter dated 02 September 2014 which details that: “O/o Registrar General of India (RGI) on 02 June, 2014 have forwarded the population details of STs in Sikkim on the basis of 2011 census (copy enclosed) and the same has been forwarded to Ministry of Tribal Affairs on 13 June 2014 (copy enclosed) for their necessary action regarding declaring the remaining entire indigenous Sikkimese Communities as Scheduled Tribes.”
The third paragraph of the letter forwarded to the Ministry of Tribal Affairs further states that “…any possible increase in the number of seats /proportionate increase in   the   seats   of Limboo-Tamang, Bhutia-Lepchas are possible only after a decision by Ministry of Tribal Affairs regarding categorization of all the remaining indigenous Sikkimese as Scheduled Tribes.  Further, the issue would also require a wider debate with all the stake holders in the State of Sikkim.”
The Limboo and Tamang communities have been awaiting reservation of seats in the legislative assembly ever since they were accorded ST status in 2002. The 32-member legislative assembly of Sikkim has 12 Bhutia-Lepcha reserved seats, two for Scheduled Castes and one for the Sangha.
LN Rao, Additional Solicitor General for the Union of India has reportedly assured the court that the required decision would be taken in the two month time allowed to the Centre.
The case itself relates to a petition filed by Harey Ram Pradhan, former BJP president for Sikkim, challenging the delimitation process demanding seat reservation to Limboo and Tamang communities. However, after the notification published new delimitation of constituencies ahead of the 2009 general elections, the challenge to the delimitation process became redundant but the seat reservation issue remains.
The Government of Sikkim, it may be recalled, has proposed that the legislative assembly’s strength be increased from the present 32 to a minimum of 40. This will allow for seats to become available for Scheduled Tribes. The SDF government has adopted four resolutions passed by the State Legislature of Sikkim on 16 September 2004, 06 June 2008, 30 March 2011 and 30 January 2013 in this regard.

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