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SC defers hearing on Mukul ST status

- Apex court decides not to include Justice Nariman on the bench

Shillong, July 21: The Supreme Court today deferred the hearing on the Scheduled Tribe status of Meghalaya chief minister Mukul Sangma as one of the judges in the bench had reportedly appeared for the petitioner as an advocate earlier this year.

According to today’s cause list, writ petition (civil) No. 343/2014 (Tennydard M. Marak versus Union of India and others) along with writ petition (civil) No. 384/2014 (All North East Indigenous Garo Law Promoters Association and others versus Union of India and others) were listed at number 12 in the court of Chief Justice Rajendra Mal Lodha.

However, apart from the Chief Justice, the bench comprised two other judges — Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman.

According to senior advocate Ranjan Mukherjee, counsel for the Meghalaya government, Justice Nariman had appeared for Marak during the hearing, which was held at the apex court in January this year.

“Today, the court decided that the matter would be heard by a bench, which Justice Nariman is not a member of,” Mukherjee told over phone from New Delhi.

However, the court did not fix any fresh date for hearing the matter, he added.

Justice Nariman was recently elevated as a judge in the Supreme Court. Prior to his elevation, Justice Nariman had practised as a senior counsel at the apex court. He was also a former Solicitor- General and a member of the Bar Council of India.

On May 9, the apex court had stayed further proceedings of the State-Level Scrutiny Committee, which was constituted to verify the Scheduled Tribe status of the chief minister.

The committee, which was supposed to submit its report to the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, was constituted on March 19.

However, the Supreme Court issued the stay on the proceedings of the committee following a petition filed by Marak on April 12 and another by the association on April 20, challenging the legality and jurisdiction of the committee.

On January 20, the Supreme Court had directed the commission to consider the petition, which questioned the tribal status of the chief minister, within eight weeks.

While disposing of two petitions, a bench comprising then Chief Justice P. Sathasivam, Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice M.Y. Eqbal had left it to the commission to take a call on Sangma’s tribal status.

Last year, Marak had petitioned the commission demanding cancellation of the Scheduled Tribe certificate which was accorded to Sangma. He had also asked the Election Commission to take action against the chief minister.

The Meghalaya High Court on October 7, 2013 had dismissed a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Marak. Thereafter, Marak approached the apex court.