NEW DELHI, Nov 1 – The Supreme Court today issued notices to the Government of Assam, the State Election Commission and the Rabha Hasong Autonomous Council (RHAC) in response to a writ petition challenging the constitutional validity of the Rabha Hasong Autonomous Council Act, 1995.
A division bench of the Supreme Court, comprising Justice Gyan Sudha Misra and Justice Pinaki Ghosh, after hearing the petitioner Umesh Tamuli and others decided to issue notices returnable within three weeks.
The filing of the petition adds a new twist to the ongoing tussle between the tribal and non-tribal communities, because the Assam State Election Commission has announced a three-phase elections to the RHAC. The elections are scheduled to be held between November 13 and 25. Polls for some panchayats in Goalpara district were countermanded in February after violence in the Rabha Hasong areas.
Out of the eight districts, polls passed off peacefully in seven districts. But in the third phase of the Panchayat elections on February 12 in Goalpara district, it was disrupted following violence.
Counsel for the petitioner, Sarvesh Singh Baghel told newsmen that they are not challenging election. “We are not challenging the election but the constitutional validity of the Act,” he said.
The counsel said that the autonomous council was created under the Rabha Hasong Autonomous Council Act, 1995, whereas they are demanding creation of the autonomous council under Article 244(1) and Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.
The RHAC was established under the Rabha Hasong Autonomous Council Act, 1995. The Act was amended from time to time, the first in 1997 and then in 2001, 2005 and 2008. According to the amended Act, the General Council consists of 40 members, out of which 36 are directly elected.
Elections to the Rabha Hasong Autonomous Council under the Rabha Hasong Autonomous Council Act have not been held since the enactment of the Act in 1995.
Minister of State for Home Affairs M Ramachandran told the Parliament that the reason for not holding the election was due to the amendment of the Rabha Hasong Autonomous Council Act four times on account of demands and counter-demands of various tribal and non-tribal communities residing in the Rabha Hasong Autonomous Council area. This necessitated several rounds of discussions with respect to demands of those communities with the government, he added.