High Court rejects petition challenging functioning of tribal bodies under Fifth Schedule of Constitution

Petitioner to appeal to Supreme Court; says sustained campaign by academia and civil society needed to ensure justice to tribal people

By Jitendra
Published: Wednesday 13 March 2013

The Chhattisgarh High Court has dismissed a public interest petition that challenged the functioning of the Tribal Advisory Councils in Scheduled areas, saying these bodies are largely responsible for the woes of tribal people in the country.

The petition filed on June 13, last year by activist B K Manish had contended that governors were not exercising their near extra-constitutional powers in administering tribal areas as this would bring them in direct confrontation with chief ministers who head the Tribal Advisory Councils. The petitioner had contended that the governor was ignoring appeals of tribal people against forcible land acquisition and other problems they face even though he has powers under the Constitution to work independent of the aid and advice of state council of ministers.

The assistant solicitor general who filed submission in the high court last month on the behalf of Union of India had, however, told the court that the governor has no discretionary powers under provisions of the Fifth Schedule. This submission contradicted the opinion given by Attorney General of India, G E Vahanvati, earlier in April, 2010 to the ministry of home affairs, stating that the governor has discretionary powers and that this had been upheld by the Supreme Court also.

The petitioner says he plans go in appeal to the Supreme Court. “The development calls for a strong and sustained campaign by academia and civil society through press and on-ground action,” he said. “It would be interesting to see the response of Union of India when this appeal reaches Supreme Court. Whether they would back their assistant solicitor general’s submission or their attorney general’s submission as both are contradictory,” he said.


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