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Gauhati High Court Blow For Naba Sarania Ahead Of Polls

Gauhati HC Sets Aside Interim Relief To Kokrajhar MP Over Tribal Status 

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GUWAHATI, April 4: The Gauhati High Court has set aside a single-bench order that had given interim relief to Lok Sabha MP Naba Sarania in a case challenging his Scheduled Tribe (Plains) (ST-P) status.

Sarania has represented the Kokrajhar Lok Sabha seat, which is reserved for ST(P) community, for the last two terms.

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The two-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Vijay Bishnoi, in its order on Wednesday also directed that the writ petition filed by Sarania in the matter before the single-judge bench be listed for Friday for final disposal due to urgency in the matter.

“We are of the view that the impugned order passed by the learned single judge cannot be sustained and the same is therefore set aside,” the two-judge bench, which also included Justice Suman Shyam, said.

Looking at the “urgency in the matter”, the court directed the Registry to list the writ petition filed by Sarania before the single-judge bench on April 5 for “final disposal”, while requesting the single-judge bench to “decide the writ petition expeditiously while hearing on a day-to-day basis, if required so”.

The order was passed in a case filed by the Assam government and four others against Sarania and three others as respondents, challenging a March 27, 2024, order by a single-judge bench which had stayed an impugned order of January this year and consequential action affecting the tribal status of Sarania till disposal of the writ petition.

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Sarania has been representing Kokrajhar constituency in the lower house of Parliament since 2016 as an Independent and is expected to contest for a third successive term from the same seat when it goes to the polls in the third phase on May 7.

Sarania, in a writ petition, had challenged a ‘speaking order’ of the State Level Scrutiny Committee (SLSC) of January 12, 2024, whereby he has been held as not to be belonging to ST(P) community.

Pursuant to the order, the state government’s Department of Tribal Affairs (Plains) had on January 20, passed an order cancelling the caste certificate of Sarania, which was issued to him on October 17, 2011, by the authorities concerned.

Sarania contended that he belonged to the Boro Kachari community, which has notified ST(P) status, and is a member of Lok Sabha from a constituency reserved for the same community.

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Justice Arun Dev Choudhury, in his order of March 27, said, “It is provided that the impugned order dated 12.01.2024 and all consequential action thereof affecting the tribe status of the petitioner, including order of cancellation of such certificate shall remain suspended till disposal of the writ petition.”

It added that the observations made in the order are for the “purpose of consideration of an interim order only and the same shall not influence the final determination to be made in the writ petition”.

The two-judge bench, in its order in the intra-court petition, observed that the order of the Department of Tribal Affairs (Plains) is not challenged in the writ petition by Sarania and it is the SLSC order of January 12 that is under challenge.

“In our opinion, suspension of the orders dated 12.01.2024 and 20.01.2024 by an interim order virtually amounts to granting of final relief to the respondent No. 1 (Sarania) without adjudication of the dispute on merits,” the order said.

“The Hon’ble Supreme Court in various judgments rendered from time to time has deprecated the practice of granting interim order which practically amounts to giving the principal relief sought for in the writ petition,” it added.

It also did not hold as valid ground for granting interim relief to Sarania on his contention that he is an MP for two terms and is contemplating contesting the upcoming elections.

The court held that if Sarania is allowed to contest the ensuing elections on the strength of the interim order that may lead to “further chaos and complications” in case the writ petition is decided against him.

While Advocate General Devajit Saikia appeared for the state government, Sarania was represented by senior counsel Salman Khurshid. (PTI)


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