WA No. 2 of 2015. Case: Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council Vs The State of Meghalaya and Ors.. Meghalaya High Court

Case NumberWA No. 2 of 2015
Party NameKhasi Hills Autonomous District Council Vs The State of Meghalaya and Ors.
CounselFor Appellant: B.B. Narzary, Sr. Advocate and P. Nongbri, Advocate and For Respondents: K.S. Kynjing, Advocate General, N.D. Chullai, Sr. Govt. Advocate and H. Kharmih, Govt. Advocate
JudgesU. N. Singh, C.J. and T. Nandakumar Singh, J.
IssueCode of Civil Procedure, 1908 (CPC) - Order XXIII Rule 3; Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC) - Section 107; Constitution of India - Article 226; Representation of the People Act, 1951 - Section 79(d); United Khasi Jaintia Hills Autonomous District Autonomous District (Appointment and Succession of Chiefs and Headmen) Act, 1959 - Sections 2...
Judgement DateJanuary 13, 2016
CourtMeghalaya High Court

Judgment:

U. N. Singh, C.J.

  1. The brief facts leading to filing of this writ appeal are that, the writ petitioners who claim to be bonafide citizens of India belong to Pnar Community, a recognised Scheduled Tribe in East Jaintia Hills of the State of Meghalaya. They are all permanent residents of Pamrakmai village, East Jaintia Hills District. They are born, brought up and are also permanent residents of that village. They are also registered as voters of 2-Rymbai Assembly Constituency of Pamrakmai village. However, writ petitioner No. 3, Smti Dakahi Dkhar could not get herself registered in voter list. Writ petitioners No. 1 to 4, namely, (1) Shri Archi Siangshai, (2) Smti Lucky Dkhar, (3) Smti Dakahi Dkhar and (4) Smti Wanlang Dkhar, are Christian by faith belonging to Presbyterian denomination and writ petitioners No. 5 to 8, namely, Smti Rita Dkhar, (6) Smti Bailang Siangshai, (7) Smti Ripaya Siangshai and (8) Smti Sida Siangshai, are by faith belong to indigenous religion (Niam chnong). It appears that having come to marriageable age, they entered into marital tie with non-tribal (dkhar) and settle in their families. They live and stay as such along with their children. It is their grievance that ever since they are married to non-tribal husbands/wives they have been deprived of their rights to live and stay peacefully with their parental families and they are subjected to all kinds of harassments by the Village Dorbar and have to live constantly under the threat of forceful eviction from the village along with their families. Finally, the Village Dorbar forcefully evicted and excommunicated writ petitioners from their respective homes. They were compelled to move out of that place and they were made to stay in outskirts of the village which is a forest, in a temporary shed. It appears that they were working as small labourers in coal mines in the nearby villages. With the closure of the coal mine, they had no option but to find out alternative place of residence in search of petty jobs in order to earn their livelihood. The writ petitioner No. 1 along with his wife and children, took shelter in a house at Wapungskul and writ petitioners No. 2, 3, 5 and 8 at Mukhep village, whereas, writ petitioner No. 4 and 6 took resort in a house at Lumshohksih near Sohkumphor at the mercies of some friends as they could not take any house for want of certificate or other authorization from the village of Pamrakmai village. As per practice in Jaintia Hills District, if a person moves from one village to another for the purpose of taking a house at rent or to get employment, he is required to produce certificate of residence from the village of permanent residence. The Village Dorbar Pamrakmai declined to issue residential certificate to the respondents and, as a result, they were not able to get their accommodation or a regular employment at the place where they were staying having shifted after closure of the coal mines. The writ petitioners claimed that they are poor and fall in the BPL category. However, in the absence of requisite residential certificates, they were deprived of the entitlement of facilities made available by the Government for the BPL category, nor were they allowed to stay at the permanent residence or at the place of temporary stay.

  2. The writ petitioners are not only deprived of their fundamental rights to live and stay at the place of their birth where they were brought up but were prohibited from entering into the village insomuch so that their rights to visit their families even at the time of sickness and death were also denied. They were not issued any show cause notices by the Village Dorbar as to on what ground and for what reason they were forcefully driven away from their homes and village and deprived of their rights to live as well as personal liberty. They were only verbally told by Dorbar Chnong Pamrakmai village and the member of Village Defence Party that since they have entered into marriage with non-tribals, they have no right to live and stay in the village. It is alleged by the respondents that the acts of Village Dorbar are illegal, arbitrary and in gross violation of their fundamental rights to live and settle at the place within the territory of India.

  3. Shri Archi Siangshai-writ petitioner No. 1 was duly elected as Headman on 20.08.2012 and confirmed by the Dolloi and recognised by the JHADC for a period of three years from the day of his election vide letter No. JHADC/POL/34/1994/17 dated 25.09.2012. However, within a short span of time from the election, he was put to trouble by the VDP and the Dorbar on one pretext or the other, particularly, on the ground that he has entered into a marital tie with a non-tribal woman. The VDP even its meeting held on 21.12.2013 directed writ petitioner No. 1 to vacate the office of Headman. Accordingly, he was forced to resign. The VDP have satisfied with the resignation and also prohibited writ petitioner No. 1 from staying or entering the jurisdiction of the village.

  4. Writ petitioner No. 1 lodged a complaint to the Deputy Commissioner, East Jaintia Hills District, with a copy thereof to the Superintendent of Police, but no action was taken by the authority concerned. The Officer, Incharge of Ladrymbai Police Station, instead of taking the matter seriously registered the complaint as non-FIR case and forwarded a report on 22.7.2014 to the Court of Additional District Magistrate, Khliehriat, praying to draw up a proceeding under Section 107 CrPC. Thereafter, the Additional District Magistrate also registered a non-FIR case No. 5 of 2014 and forwarded the matter to the file of First Class Magistrate. Having found no relief from the Police and executive authorities against the excesses committed by the Village Durbar and the Village Defence Party, the writ petitioners filed WP(C) No. 363 of 2014.

  5. It appears from the impugned judgment, that as per the direction of this Court, the writ petitioners were allowed to return to their respective villages and the matter was also compromised. It was submitted by Dr. ODV Ladia, learned senior counsel appearing for the writ petitioners, that they were not interested to proceed with the case any further. However, it also appears, that the Headman and Secretary of Village Defence Party namely, Shri Lukas Shylla and U Daikiwbha Rymbai were produced by the Officer Incharge in compliance of the order of the learned single Judge dated 10.12.2014. They were warned against repetition of any such commission or omission whereby the respondents would become aggrieved in the manner as impugned herein. They were also warned not to interfere with the law and order enforcement. However, before finally parting with the judgment, the learned single Judge also made the following observation:

    4. Before I part with this case record, I observe that the original concept of headman of a locality is totally different from what it is at present. As far as my knowledge goes, headman should be elderly person of a locality with good background, having humane feeling, sense of integrity and who is against all kinds of violence and elected by the people of the locality and to obtain sanat from syiem. The duty of headman is to look after the welfare only of the locality concerned and at best can place the grievances of the people to the Government, District Administration or to the Police. Headman of a locality did not derive any right from law, and rule or from the Constitution of India to issue NOC for the purpose of birth/death or for registration of any document as well as for building permission and obtaining loan. We often notice that, whenever any person approached for birth/death certificate, building permission, registration of sale deed or any other document or electric connection, loan, they have been asked to bring NOC from local headman which is highly illegal on the part of the District Administration and the Government. We also notice that, very often local headmen interfere with the police work as well as with the District Administration. Now the question comes, where from those headmen derive the power to issue NOC or to interfere with administration or indulge in removing people from villages. The answer is that, no rule of law has empowered them to do so; they are doing of these kinds of activities as per their whim and will and they try to run a parallel Government. As a result, common citizens are the worse sufferers which should not be allowed at any cost.

  6. In the instant appeal questioning the aforesaid impugned order, it is contended that the learned single Judge ought to have taken into consideration the age old custom and tradition prevailing in the Khasi society. Moreover, once the matter was compromised and under the interim order dated 10.12.2014, the private respondents/writ petitioners were allowed to return to their village and further, that they were not interested to proceed with the case any further, the Court should not have passed the impugned order adversely affecting the power and authority of the grass root level office of District Council. The office of Chiefs, Headmen and their appointment, etc, are recognised and mentioned in para 3(e) of the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of India. In fact, the Headmen/Rangbah Shnong being nominated/elected institution existed as per the provisions of Section 7 of the United Khasi Jaintia Hills Autonomous District Council (Appointment and Succession of Chiefs and Headmen) Act, 1959. Therefore, they derive the authority to act from the Statute. The institutions are, according to appellant, perfectly structured and are continuing since time immemorial. The institution of Headmen existed at the grass root level of governance in the absence of Municipalities or Town Councils. They are also the implementing agency for various programmes for Central and State Governments. The impugned order has also created confusion as to who...

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