'Completely Factually Wrong': SC Slams Manipur HC Order on Meiteis and ST List

'We have given Justice Muralidharan time to correct himself but he did not. I mean it's very clear what to do if High Court doesn't follow constitution judge benches.'

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday, May 17, made what LiveLaw reported as “strong remarks” against the Manipur high court’s direction to the state government to consider the inclusion of the Meitei community in the Scheduled Tribes’ list.

This order is understood to have led to significant anxiety among non-Meitei Manipur residents who are already on the Scheduled Tribes list. A protest against such an outcome in which the Meiteis would be included in the ST list, on May 3, led to brutal ethnic violence in the state, killing at least 60 people, injuring hundreds and displacing tens of thousands.

The LiveLaw report noted that while the bench led by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud expresses its inclination towards staying the order, it eventually did not do so. Justice PS Narasimha, and Justice JB Pardiwala were also part of the bench.

“I think we have to stay the order of the High Court. We have given Justice Muralidharan time to correct himself but he did not. I mean it’s very clear what to do if High Court doesn’t follow constitution judge benches,” CJI Chandrachud remarked, orally.

Bar and Bench offered a slightly different version of the CJI’s words. This version comes across as more critical:

“We have to stay the order of the Manipur HC. It is completely factually wrong and we gave time to Justice Muralidharan to remedy his error and he did not…we have to take a strong view against it now.”

The order had come from acting Chief Justice M.V. Muralidharan of the Manipur high court.

The Solicitor General Tushar Mehta responded that the government asked for an extension considering the position on the ground and not a stay. Following this, he said, the high court had granted the Manipur government a year’s extension.

In the last hearing as well, CJI Chandrachud had made remarks critical of the high court ruling, stating that the verdict goes against constitution bench judgments that say that judicial orders cannot be passed to change the Scheduled Tribes list.

When the CJI asked the petitioner to appear before a division bench of the high court, Manipur Tribal Forum Delhi’s counsel, Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves said that Kuki lawyers could not appear before the high court because their village is a kilometre away and “it’s very dangerous.”

CJI Chandrachud asked them to appear virtually.

To Gonsalves’s assertion that attacks were being yet planned against some communities, the Supreme Court urged the Manipur government to take appropriate action on such apprehensions.