Chief Justice Mittal : Sixth Schedule provides for administration of certain tribal areas as autonomous entities

SHILLONG, Jul 6: A seminar on “District Council Courts of Meghalaya”, was organised by the Meghalaya State Judicial Academy on Saturday.

The Chief Justice of the High Court of Meghalaya, Justice Ajay Kumar Mittal, while inaugurating the seminar said that the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of India is a mini Constitution governing the administration of tribal areas of the north-eastern states.

“It was aimed at granting some kind of autonomy to the tribal populace so that they could be guided by their customary laws and practices and not be pushed to conform to a modern system of governance where they might not be able to negotiate their own liberal political space and to grow according to their own genius,” Chief Justice Mittal said.

According to him, the Sixth Schedule provides for administration of certain tribal areas as autonomous entities.

He pointed out that there is a unique system of administration of justice in Meghalaya where three sets of judicial institutions or functionaries and laws are in place.

Firstly, in the Normal Areas of Shillong (the three Municipal Wards of Police Bazar, Jail Road, European Ward and the Cantonment area), the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Civil Procedure Code are applicable as such, both in letter and in spirit.

Chief Justice Mittal said that the Court of the District Judge and his subordinates have jurisdiction over these areas as per the provisions of the Bengal, Agra, Assam Civil Courts Act, 1887. The explanation to sub-section (2) of Section 1 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 distinctly recognizes such a unique feature relating to Shillong.

Secondly, he pointed out that the Deputy Commissioner and his Assistants are empowered to try civil and criminal cases in the entire State of Meghalaya, barring the Normal Areas of Shillong, under the provisions of – the Rules for the Administration of Justice and Police in the Khasi and Jaintia Hills District 1937, the Rules for the Administration of Justice and Police in the Garo Hills District 1937; and the Khasi Syiemships (Administration of Justice) Order, 1950.

The Chief Justice of Meghalaya High Court also said that the last set of Judicial System in the State is found in the functioning of the District Council Courts having jurisdiction within the areas covered by the three Autonomous District Councils, duly constituted under the provisions of the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of India.

Meanwhile, Justice HS Thangkhiew, pointed out that the district council courts, are empowered to constitute Courts for trials of cases between parties belonging to Scheduled Tribe communities.

Justice Thangkhiew also informed that under the United Khasi-Jaintia Hills District (Administration of Justice) Rules, 1953, three classes of Courts have been provided, namely Village Courts, Subordinate District Council Courts and District Council Court.

He also informed that these courts try all cases at different level when litigation is within the tribal areas and party or parties involved are tribals.

“They dispense justice in line with the traditional customs and usages,” Justice Thangkhiew said.

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