The Supreme Court has issued notices to the Delimitation Commission of India (DCI), the Election Commission of India (ECI), the Centre and others on a petition seeking proportional representation in the Legislative Assembly for Limboo and Tamang Scheduled Tribes of Sikkim before a notification is published for the General Elections 2019, while also asking the Election Commission to “keep in mind” the pendency of the petition and “take action accordingly”.
A bench of Justice AK Sikri and Justice S Abdul Nazeer also issued notices to the Governor of Sikkim and the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha Secretariat seeking their response to the petition within four weeks.
Petitioners Yehang Subba and Sancha Raj Limboo belonging to the Limboo and Tamang Scheduled Tribes moved the court ruing how despite the two tribes being recognised as Scheduled Tribes in the year 2003, they lack representation in the Legislative Assembly, which is a clear violation of Article 332 of the Constitution.
Their counsel Pritika Kumar vehemently argued that the two tribes have been denied their rightful representation while the authorities concerned have “betrayed their trust” making them run from pillar to post for the last 16 years.
She then pleaded with the court to grant a stay against the ECI issuing notification for the general elections as far as Sikkim is concerned and that the elections be conducted only after the seats are reserved in the Assembly for the two tribes.
To this, the court said in its order, “We may place on record that the learned counsel for the petitioners has forcefully argued that there should be a stay against the Election Commission of India for issuing notification for the election, in the meantime.
“This Court may not pass such an order. However, we leave it to the Election Commission of India to keep in mind that the present writ petition is filed in which notice has been issued and take action appropriately”.
During the arguments, Kumar submitted that the September 4, 2006, notification issued by the Delimitation Commission in the Gazette of India and also the Parliamentary and Assembly Constituencies Order, 2008, published by the Election Commission of India, besides Section 7 of the Representation of People Act were ultra vires.
She said the 2006 order wronged the tribes as Section 8, 9 and 11 of this order of the Delimitation Commission failed to reserve seats for the Limboo-Tamang Scheduled Tribes in Sikkim Assembly on the basis of the 2001 Census in line with Section 332 of the Constitution.
As she pressed for directions to the Delimitation Commission and the Election Commission to rectify the 2008 and 2008 orders to reserve seats for the tribes in the Assembly, Kumar argued that even the ECI had failed to fulfil its responsibility in this case as it turned a blind eye to the 2006 order of the Delimitation Commission even when one of the roles of the ECI is to correct the mistakes of the Delimitation Commission.
The petition, filed through Kumar’s Cornellia Chambers, stressed on the point that the Limboo and Tamang tribes have been recognised as Scheduled Tribes in accordance with Article 342 of the Constitution. Therefore, as provided in Article 332, seats are required to be reserved for recognised tribe of a state in the Assembly keeping in mind the proportion of population of the said tribe to the population of the entire state.
In 2001, the population of Limboo and Tamang communities in Sikkim was 20.60 percent, which increased to 33. 8 percent in the year 2011.
The tribes contended that for almost 16 years, they have been denied proportionate representation which is also a violation of their right to equality.
The petition also prayed that a commissioner be appointed to oversee the entire exercise and ensure its time-bound and expeditious implementation.