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Govt delays reply to Mukul caste complaint

Shillong, Dec. 1: The Meghalaya government has failed to submit a reply within the stipulated time to the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes in relation to a complaint, which questioned the authenticity of the Scheduled Tribe certificate issued to chief minister Mukul Sangma.

In September, the commission had sought a reply from the government within 30 days, but the government responded only this week.

The director of the commission, M.S. Chopra, sent a letter to Meghalaya chief secretary W.M.S. Pariat regarding a complaint lodged by one Tennydard M. Marak, a resident of Nokgilawe, Williamnagar in the East Garo Hills district.

Earlier, Marak had filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in Meghalaya High Court, challenging the authenticity of the Scheduled Tribe certificate issued to Sangma.

“The reply was submitted to the commission based on the recent ruling of the high court, which has dismissed the PIL filed by Marak,” Pariat said today.

The chief secretary, however, did not speak of the reasons for the government’s failure to submit the reply to the commission within the stipulated time.

The commission, in its letter on September 19, asked Pariat to submit comments, along with an action-taken report, within 30 days on the points raised by Marak in the representation he had submitted to the commission so that the same could be placed before the chairperson of the commission.

National Commission for Scheduled Tribes is set up under Article 338A of the Constitution, and is entrusted with duties to inquire into specific complaints with respect to the deprivation of rights and safeguards of Scheduled Tribes.

The commission also has powers of a civil court to deal with complaints.

The division bench of Justice T. Nandakumar Singh and Justice S.R. Sen of Meghalaya High Court heard the final motion hearing on the PIL filed by Marak on September 16.

Justice Singh and Justice Sen, however, reserved their order and judgment on whether to reject or accept the PIL.

On October 7, the court passed its order and judgment, which dismissed the petition on the ground that the petitioner (Marak) had no locus standi to file the PIL.

Marak, who had demanded the cancellation of the Scheduled Tribe certificate issued to Sangma, asked the Election Commission to take action against the chief minister since the certificate was “fraudulently” obtained.

In the PIL, Marak said he came across details about the parentage of Sangma, vis-à-vis his Scheduled Tribe certificate.

On being “very much disturbed and shocked” about Sangma’s claim of belonging to “Sangma” caste, the petitioner said he had filed an application for cancellation of the certificate issued to Sangma on June 23, 1982.

The petitioner also alleged that Sangma obtained the said certificate by “misrepresentation and suppressing the material facts” and as such, the certificate was liable for cancellation.

However, the court was of the view that the petitioner “cannot be an aggrieved party or person having the locus standi for filing the present PIL” as it has been spelled out from the facts that he was never the candidate for the election to the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly from Ampatigiri constituency (a constituency reserved for Scheduled Tribe candidates).

The chief minister has represented Ampatigiri constituency in South West Garo Hills district since 1993.