SC stays scrutiny panel hearing

From CK Nayak

ST status of Chief Minister

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday stayed the State Level Scrutiny Committee (SLSC) hearing on the Scheduled Tribe status of Chief Minister Mukul Sangma and issued notices to the Meghalaya Government and seven others.

The order was based on a petition filed by Tennydard M Marak on April 12 and another by All Northeast Indigenous Garo Law Promoters’ Association on April 20, challenging the legality and jurisdiction of the SLSC.

The petitioners had questioned the neutrality and legality of the SLSC since the members of the committee were State Government officials tasked with inquiring into the tribal status of their own executive head, which in this case happened to be the Chief Minister.

State’s senior counsel Ranjan Mukherjee received the apex court notice on behalf of the Meghalaya Government. The other recipients of the notice are – the Union Government, National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, the Election Commission of India, the Scrutiny Committee, Sangma himself besides his minister brother Zenith and sister Tripti Rani.

The case was heard in the court of Chief Justice R.M. Lodha and three others. The apex court on January 20 this year had requested the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes to verify and dispose of the case related to the ST status of the Meghalaya Chief Minister within eight weeks on merit and in accordance with the law.

Earlier, a PIL was filed by the All Northeast Indigenous Garo Law Promoters’ Association and Tennydard M Marak seeking its direction to hold inquiry into the ST status of Sangma and cancellation of the certificate issued to him on June 23, 1982.

The apex court combined both the petitions.

The petitioners had alleged that the Chief Minister did not belong to the ‘Sangma’ clan, and that he had used his surname only to obtain an ST certificate. They moved the apex court after a similar plea by them was rejected by the Meghalaya High Court on October 7 last year. Sangma, who is in his second term as Chief Minister, is a five-time legislator who won from Ampati assembly constituency in South West Garo Hills in 1993, 1998, 2003, 2008 and 2013.

The National Commission for STs wrote to the then Meghalaya Chief Secretary to submit comments and action taken report within 30 days from February 14 in view of the apex court’s deadline. It also sent a reminder to the Chief Secretary giving the deadline of March 21.

On March 27 the NCST intimated the Supreme Court that as per its direction the Commission was pursuing the matter and would submit its recommendations and comments in due course.

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