Nagaland's Tribal Recognition: Understanding the Court's Key Decision On ST Order By Guwahati High Court

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Saturday, September 30, 2023
Nagaland's Tribal Recognition: Understanding the Court's Key Decision On ST Order By Guwahati High Court
Guwahati High Court Upholds Constitution (Nagaland) Scheduled Tribe Order, 1970 in Landmark Judgment
DIMAPUR, SEPTEMBER 29, 2023: In a significant legal decision, the Kohima Bench of the Guwahati High Court has underscored the exclusive authority of the Parliament to amend the Constitution (Nagaland) Scheduled Tribe Order, 1970, stating that neither the Government of Nagaland nor the High Court possesses the power to alter this constitutional provision. The judgment came during the dismissal of a writ petition filed by the Rongmei Council, Nagaland.

The Rongmei Council had challenged a portion of the Cabinet Decision from April 25, 2017, and a State Government notification dated April 26, 2017. These decisions had revoked the recognition of the Rongmei tribe as one of the Naga tribes in Nagaland, as previously established in a notification dated August 4, 2012.

Justice Kardak Ete, in delivering the verdict, emphasized, "Any tribe or tribal community can be included or excluded from the list of Scheduled Tribes under Article 342 of the Constitution of India by the Parliament alone, and by no other authority. It is not open to State Governments, courts, tribunals, or any other entity to modify, amend, or alter the list of Scheduled Tribes."

The Rongmei Council's contention was rooted in historical records, as they argued that the Rongmei tribe, previously known as Kabui, had already been recognized in the 1891 Assam population census. Their case rested on the fact that recognition was unnecessary, as it had already been established during the time when the Naga Hills district was under Assam's administrative control.

However, the Court documents revealed that, via a notification dated August 4, 2012, the Government of Nagaland had officially recognized the Rongmei community residing in the state as one of the Naga tribes. To ensure the legitimacy of this recognition, the State Government instituted an examination process for members of the Rongmei tribe, ensuring they had settled in Nagaland prior to December 1, 1963.

Furthermore, a Cabinet Sub-Committee was formed in September 2016 to assess the status of the indigenous Naga tribe for members of the Rongmei community. The Cabinet later met in April 2017, deciding to modify the earlier recognition by withdrawing the status of indigenous Naga tribe from the Rongmei community, limiting it to 1,313 individuals who had settled in Nagaland before December 1, 1963.

While the petitioner argued that these decisions were made after thorough discussions and considerations, the respondent, represented by LT Sangtam, Additional AG, contended that the actions taken were in the interest of the recognized Naga tribes of Nagaland and aligned with public interest.

In his judgment and order, Justice Kardak Ete clarified that the Rongmei tribe was not included in the Constitution (Nagaland) Scheduled Tribe Order, 1970, which specified the recognized Scheduled Tribes in Nagaland. The order solely recognizes Naga, Kuki, Kachari, Mikir, and Garo tribes, omitting the Rongmei tribe. The judgment also noted that the Rongmei community was recognized as a Scheduled Tribe in the State of Manipur through a Presidential Order in 2011.

In light of these findings, the writ petition filed by the Rongmei Council was dismissed, affirming the constitutional provisions governing Scheduled Tribes in Nagaland.