Traditional Institutions Vrs Law Enforcement.


Apropos the news reports in all news papers including The Shillong Times, “Call for law on Rangbah Shnong powers gets louder” (ST JAN. 4, 2015), it appears that our leaders have failed to follow the trend of thought of the Hon’ble Justice SR Sen, the sitting Judge of the case WP(C) No. 363/2014 Dated 10.12.2014. Some people have gone to the length of imputing motives to his well considered and reasoned views, which seem to be unjust.

In the fourth paragraph of the Honourable High Court of Meghalaya Judgment and Order, the Hon’ble Judge had made statements to highlight his deep knowledge about the traditional institution of Rangbah Shnong or Village Headman which testifies to the perception that he was born and brought up in the District. His comments and views upon the current and predominant practice of Headmen is generally valid in the context of the constitutional provisions. It is tantamount to indictment of the State, and, by inference, of the District Council Authorities for their lackadaisical attitude to good governance at root levels. Even a layman with no previous training in interpreting the jargon of law terms but with a reasonable command of the language (English) used in all laws in the statute books should be able to follow the trend of thought of the sitting Judge. Everybody is aware that for a law to be effectively implemented it should be a written law – reduced to black and white. We do know that till now no law or rule exists to empower the traditional institutions to do whatever they were traditionally empowered by the oral tradition up to 26th January, 1950 when the Constitution of India came into force.

After the promulgation of the Constitution of India, it ought to have been assumed that all oral traditions should be reduced to black and white (writing). In the case of the District Councils of North-East India, including Meghalaya, the constitutional bodies of Autonomous District Councils are empowered to make laws to suit the regional cultural/traditional concepts. The first step in this, as this writer has been pleading, is the codification of customary laws, but, this has not exercised the minds of District Council legislators since June 27, 1952 when the first Autonomous District Council was inaugurated in the then State of Assam, and, till now in Meghalaya. Since the legislative power has not been exercised by our District Councils legislators there are no laws to define the role, function, power and limitation of those powers and functions. So, the Hon’ble Judge is right when he stated, “…no rule of law has empowered them…”. This has to be addressed immediately to secure our right to practise our customary laws within the constraints of the Constitution which is paramount in administration of justice in the Union, in which the majority of our people had reposed their faith for law and order since Independence Day 15th August, 1947. It is hoped that this mile-stone judgment and order is the trigger to move these authorities to do their job more efficiently.

In paragraph 5, unfortunately, the Hon’ble Judge has erred, but, to err is human, as a saying goes. With regard to paragraphs 6 to 12, I forebear comments. However, it should be evident to discernable readers that the Judge appears to be a self-disciplined person who prefers bluntness to so-called tact which is too often offered as an excuse for failure to discipline subordinates in office.

Finally, it appears to me that the Court lacks efficient staff to run the office.

Yours etc.,

Morning Star Sumer,

Shillong – 2

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