(Heritage Law College)
On 14th December 2016, a division bench, seated by Chief Justice of India T. S. Thakur, Justice D. Y. Chandrachud and Justice L. Nageswara Rao served justice to case of Karma Dorjee v. Union of India. The arguments of the Petitioners were about the discriminations and iniquities experienced by people of North-Eastern states.
Facts of the case
Highlighting Article 32 of the Indian Constitution, the petitioner postulates the proposition that people residing in the North-Eastern states are discriminated by the ones inhabiting in rest of the country. He ridicules the irony of the case, that despite living in the twenty first century, people carry out such atrocities. He further adds that his petition is a revelation to the society about the impoverishment of basic amenities and the non-equitable dispensation of resources including job opportunities, hospitals, transportation, that these people are facing.
In support of the plea, the petitioner, with factual delineation, has fixated to various heinous instances reported to print media dating back to 2009. It was alleged that a woman was burnt to death in her kitchen on 26th October 2009, by a stalker who received repudiation for uninvited advances. In the second report, it was a young student from Manipur who is claimed to have died on 17th April 2012 after being molested in the hostel. In August 2012, the circulation of belligerent messages, is alleged to have created terror amongst a community of north-eastern people residing in Karnataka. In a case, it is alleged that a young Manipuri girl have been murdered on 29 May 2013 in a rented apartment in Delhi. Another case reported that two young women from the North-East were subjected to racial taunts and assaults on 25th January 2014 and subsequently on 29th January 2014, such racial taunts and molestation led to the death of a young student in Lajpat Nagar area of the national capital.
The issues pertaining to this case were expressly laid down. The petition was filed after death of the 20-year-old student Nido Tania in Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar area to seek protection of rights of the inhabitants of the North-Eastern states and to protect them from racial jeer and assaults. The issues concerned in this case were racial discrimination and assaults in various public and private sectors, in-equitable distribution of resources and absence of equal rights and opportunities to the residents of north-eastern states. The petition was filed in public interest to set out the guidelines necessary to put a restraint on the atrocities that were being carried out on the people living in the North-Eastern states.
In this case against the Union Government the petitioners entreated that a committee should be established by the Government which shall be administered by a former Supreme Court judge to investigate into the matters of discrimination. They also contested before the honourable Supreme Court to lay down the policies and procedures to deal with cases of discrimination.
Arguments by the petitioner.
Article 15 of the Constitution, which prohibits discrimination on the grounds of race, religion, caste, and sex; has been highlighted in the trial to shed light on the analogous scenario where the people of north-eastern states are being humiliated and discriminated in different parts of the country. The petitioner also puts forward the adoption of International Convention on elimination of discrimination (CERD) by United Nations in the year 1965. It has a provision under Article 2 which promulgates an obligation on the states to put a restrain on any type of discrimination encountered by people. It tackles to pursue a policy to eradicate racial discrimination in every form which laid down that:
Every State Party accepts to take part in no act of racial discrimination against a person, a group of people or institution and would guarantee that all authorities and institutions, either public or private, national or local shall act in accordance to the obligation.
Every State Party shall introduce effective measures to analyse governmental, national, and local policies and to alter, abrogate or annul any law or policy which have the effect of generating or perpetuating racial discrimination wherever it exists.
Every State Party ensures to not finance, defend or aid racial discrimination by people or institutions.
Every State shall put a restrain, by all relevant means, including legislation, as the circumstances require, racial discrimination by any person, group or organisation.
Every State Party ensure to motivate, where suitable, egalitarian multiracial organisations and movements and other methods of eradicating barriers between races and to demoralize everything that tends to build up racial division.
In India, the convention came into operation on 4th January, 1969. Thus, India, like any other nation, is legally bound by the regulations of the convention. But on a contrary, the North-Eastern citizens are subject to such heinous discrimination by the people located in other parts of the country.
Arguments of respondent
To oppose the arguments put forward by the petitioners, the Government addressed the topic of initiation of the Bezbaruah Committee, which was formed on 5th February 2014 after the death of Nido Tania, to deal with the issues faced by the people of North-Eastern states. M. P. Bezbaruah, who was a member of the North-Eastern Council, headed this committee. It was the directive of the committee to listen to the issues brought up by the North-Eastern people located in different parts of the country, and suggest measures that could be implemented by the Government in order to eradicate their issues. Eventually, after talking to various collaborators, the committee filed its report in the Ministry of Home Affairs on 11th July 2014. The suggestions as arranged by the committee are provided in the undermentioned sections:
There shall be facilities of legal aid and assistance along with speedy justice by setting up special courts.
Law enforcement agencies shall be strengthened to give them power and autonomy.
There shall be special police initiatives including enterprising regional measures and special patrolling at eccentric hours along with pick-up and drop facilities for female crowd.
The potentiality of sports shall be utilised by developing national universities to facilitate and authorize the people to take up sports as a career and sports coaching shall be provided at minimal costs.
Education shall be provided in the North-Eastern states by establishing schools and colleges at various district and state levels.
Greater attention shall be provided on Broadcasting. Also, correct and precise information shall be provided to the North-Eastern residents in least time by setting up broadcasting centres.
IAS level officers shall be appointed by each state government and also shall be provided with accommodation.
The petitioner mainly highlighted the Articles drafted in the Indian Constitution. The Articles mainly referred were Article 15, Article 32(2), and Article 51A(e). Apart from that, International Convention on Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), the Assam Accord, and the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation Act, 1873 were also addressed.
Article 15 of the Constitution prohibits discrimination on grounds of race, religion, caste, place of birth, etc. Irrespective of Article 15 being binding on all over the Indian subcontinent, the people of North-East India are often subject to racial discrimination by the people of rest of the country.
Article 32 authorizes the citizens to move to the Supreme Court to seek justice whenever they are unduly deprived of their rights. On the other hand, the Apex Court is authorized to proclaim directions and orders to execute any of the rights contained in the Constitution as the preserver of Fundamental Rights.
Article 51A (e)
Article 51A (e) is Fundamental Duty, incorporated under Part IV-A. It promotes harmony and the morale of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India exceeding beyond religious, linguistic, topographical or sectional miscellanies; and to repudiate practices that are disparaging to the dignity of women. The petitioners called attention to the discrimination prevailing in the society against the residents of north-eastern states, highlighting the Fundamental Duty under Article 51A (e), and convinced the court on the violation of the same.
Assam accord is the result of Assam Movement or Assam Agitation which was a popular movement, carried out through the years of 1979 to 1985, against the illegal expatriates in Assam. The All Assam Students Union and the All Assam Gana Sangram Parishad headed the movement. Their main aim of protests or demonstrations was to impel the Union Government to debar these illegal expatriates, who are mostly Bangladeshi, and protect as well as bestow with constitutional, legislative, and administrative assistance and safeguard to natives of Assam. The protests ended with the Memorandum of Settlement, namely the Assam Accord, which was validated by the representatives of the Assam Movement and the representatives of the Union Government. It was signed by former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, who was the Prime Minister at that time, on 15th August 1986.
The Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation Act, 1873
The Constitution of India authorizes every citizen to travel, work or live in any state of the country. However, certain special authorizations or permissions are needed to get an entry to certain areas. Such permissions are called Inner Line Permit which grant entry to certain areas located between international boundaries, known as Inner Line of the country. The Inner Line Permit came into operation through Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873. This regulation is implemented in the districts of Kamrup, Darrang, Nowgong, Sibsagar, Lakhimpur, Garo Hills, Khasi and Jaintia Hills, Naga Hills and Cachar and further extended to the regions of Eastern Dooars in Goalpara district, the Mokokchung sub-division in the Naga hills, the Sadiya Frontier Tract, and the Lakhimpur Frontier Tract. The main aim of the regulation was to prohibit the entry of people who were non-native to the areas sheltered under it.
International Convention on Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD)
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, is an association of independent heads who job is to keep an eye on the enactment of the Convention on Elimination of Racial Discrimination by its signatory members.
The International Convention on Elimination of Racial Discrimination is a treaty adopted by the United Nations on 21st December 1965. The convention mainly focuses on the discrimination faced by people all over the world and also puts restrictions on these acts of discrimination. As of July 2020, there are 88 signatories and 182 parties to the convention.
The Supreme Court passed a slew of judgements, composed by Justice D. Y. Chandrachud. It was perceived that the atrocities and discriminations the people of North-Eastern states are subjected to, violate the aforementioned Articles and other prominent Articles of the Constitution; in those odious acts of racism, the pillars of fundamental rights and duties has been neglected. Also, the conviction of the people in every sector of society, starting from schools to universities to jobs to every other place, needed to be modified. People belonging from different ethnic groups should welcome, adopt and support the traditions, norms and cultures of the diverse ethnicity that the country offers. At the same time, the ideals of fraternity among all the citizens of the country, irrespective of race, religion, caste, sex, place of birth, etc., should be encouraged.
Apart from the issues of discriminations and atrocities faced by the citizens of north-eastern states, the Apex Court adjudicated the need to address the socio-economic problems encountered by the residents of North-Eastern states, including unemployment and poverty. The pillars of right to life with dignity has also been emphasized.
The Apex Court further asked the Ministry of Home Affairs to take the pleas into consideration and also to take appropriate actions to provide remedy to the people of North-Eastern states.
The Ministry of Home Affairs appointed a two-member committee comprising of one member who would be nominated by the Indian Government and the other member nominated would be a local figure.
The Supreme Court precisely mentioned the essence of work that would be performed by the committee, as mentioned below:
It shall be the duty of the committee to monitor the implementation of Bezbaruah Committee.
It shall be the duty of the committee to monitor the initiatives taken by the Government against the atrocities and discriminations.
It shall be the duty of the committee to obtain an action plan to be implemented in cases of discrimination.
It shall be the duty of the committee to elevate the issue of the concerned state authorities.
In this case of Karma Dorjee v. Union of India, the honourable Supreme Court, in a bench of three judges, comprising of the Chief Justice of India, Justice D. Y. Chandrachud, and Justice L. Nageswara Rao, gave the verdict in favour of the petitioners and in favour of all the people of North-Eastern states who were subject to abominable discrimination and were somewhere somehow seeking for relief and justice. The decree of the Supreme Court shall be binding and the measures put forward should be taken into consideration and implemented as early as possible. This would eventually lead to a society where the people from the North-Eastern states shall feel welcomed by the rest of the country and be subjected to less harassing environment, they shall be free to travel, work, and live with dignity and high morale in any region of the country.
1. Karma Dorjee v. Union of India AIR 2017 SC 113 retrieved from www.scconline.com
2. Karma Dorjee & Ors. v. Union of India & Ors. retrieved from www.indiankanoon.org
3. Karma Dorjee & Ors. v. Union of India & Ors. retrieved from www.blog.ipleaders.in
4. Article 32(2) of the Constitution retrieved from www.legalservice.com
5. Article 15 of the Constitution retrieved from www.constitutionofindia.net
6. Article 51A(e) of the Constitution retrieved from “Constitutional Law of India” by Dr. J.N. Pandey
7. “International Convention on Elimination of Racial Discrimination” retrieved from www.ohchr.org
8. “Assam accord and its clauses” retrieved from www.assamaccord.assam.gov.in
9. “Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873” retrieved from www.latestlaws.com
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