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Separate high courts to be set up in NE States

 Agartala, March 2 (IANS): The Central government has taken an initiative to set up separate high courts in the northeastern States of Tripura, Manipur and Meghalaya, union Law and Justice Minister M Veerappa Moily said today.

A delegation of MPs from northeastern States, led by Lok Sabha Member from Tripura Khagen Das, met Moily in New Delhi and demanded that the process of setting up separate high courts in the three northeastern States be expedited.

All the eight northeastern States, excluding Sikkim, come under the jurisdiction of the Gauhati High Court. Sikkim has a separate high court.

"Moily told us that his ministry had already submitted Cabinet memorandum to the Union Cabinet to set up separate full-fledged high courts in Tripura, Manipur and Meghalaya," Das told IANS over phone from New Delhi.

"The Central government may amend the North-Eastern Areas (Reorganisation) Act, 1971, to set up separate high courts in Tripura, Manipur and Meghalaya," Das said. "The Union Ministry of Home Affairs, which is the authority of that Act, has also taken initiative in this regard," he added.

"Immediately after the amendment of the necessary Act, separate high court would be set up first in Tripura, then in Manipur and Meghalaya," Das said quoting the Union Law and Justice Minister.

The Central Minister has clarified to the MPs delegation that to set up separate high courts in the northeastern States amendments of the Constitution are not required.

All parties in Tripura have been demanding a separate high court in Tripura for the past three decades.

"The Union Law Minister in a letter has informed me that to set up a separate high court in Tripura, the Union Home Ministry has to amend the 1971 Act," Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar told the State Assembly during a debate on the long-pending issue.

Opposition Congress legislator Gopal Roy, also a senior lawyer, told the House that of the 21 judges in the Gauhati High Court currently, against the sanctioned number of 24, 14 were from Assam, four from Manipur and one each from Tripura, Mizoram and Nagaland, and there was none from Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya.

"There should be more judges and proper representation from different northeastern States to settle the long-pending thousands of cases in the high court," Roy demanded.

Sarkar, who also holds the home and law portfolios, said that around 77,500 cases have been pending in different courts in Tripura, including at the Agartala bench of the Gauhati High Court, where 6,320 cases were pending.

According to the Chief Minister, during the last financial year, 5,481 cases have been settled by 248 Lok Adalats in Tripura.

A series of agitations, including strikes, were organised by the lawyers and political parties in Tripura.

Delegations from various political parties and legislators met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and union law ministers on a number of occasions to press the demand for a separate high court for Tripura.

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