The Meghalaya High Court on September 20 asked that the district council court take up the case filed by Dorbar Shnong Lapangap against the Dorbar Shnong Lumlakhiat and decide it on merit.
In its judgment, the two-member bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice W Diengdoh said, “Accordingly, C.Ref.No.1 of 2018 is disposed of by requesting the District Council Court to take up Civil Appeal No. 2 of 2015 and decide the same on merits without going into the perceived lack of authority of the District Council Court to entertain the matter since the parties are agreed that the District Council Court has due authority in such regard.”
The civil reference has been made by the district council court in Jowai in Civil Appeal No.2 of 2015 pending before the court. The exact question that has been framed in the reference of May 31, 2018 by the relevant district council court is as follows: “Whether the Dorbar Shnong (Village Dorbar) is a tribal or nontribal?”
The relevant appeal before the district council court arose out of a suit filed by the petitioner dorbar shnong against another dorbar shnong.
Both the dorbar shnongs were sued by or through their respective headman and secretary. Such suit was filed before the subordinate district council court.
Quite naturally, the petitioner submits that the machinery of the district council court, including its subordinate forum, is empowered in view of the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution to take up adjudication of disputes between one dorbar shnong and another.
The basis of the petitioner’s submission is that since a dorbar shnong is a representative body of members all of whom are tribals, a dorbar shnong should also be regarded as a tribal.
In other words, the petitioning dorbar shnong asserts that since a dorbar shnong which brings an action against any party is, essentially, a collective of tribal persons, and, similarly, when a dorbar shnong is sued, it is a collective of its tribal members, such an action is an action by a number of tribals against another set of tribals.
The bench said, “In view of the submission made on behalf of the parties to the list and the fact that the proceedings instituted before the Subordinate District Council Court cannot be regarded as completely without basis, though an arguable case to the contrary can also be made out, it is best that the suit and all proceedings arising out of the same be decided by the Subordinate District Council Court and the District Council Court in accordance with law and on merits without seeking to rake up the issue that has been referred in this reference in course of such proceedings.”
“It is clarified that it is only in view of the unanimity of view between the rival parties that the reference does not require to be comprehensively dealt with, though, prima facie, it appears that a body representing individual tribals may also be regarded as a tribal for the purpose of attracting the jurisdiction of the District Council Court machinery in respect of disputes pertaining thereto. The issue may be considered at this level on a more elaborate basis in an appropriate matter,” it said while disposing of the matter.
It was also recorded that it is the contention of the State that a dorbar shnong would be any other authority within the meaning of such expression in Article 12 of the Constitution.