SC/HC verdict on Merger Agreement: Time for our intellectuals and civil societies to have a re-look

Dr Th Suresh Singh *

Supreme Court of India
Supreme Court of India :: Pix - TSE

Background : I wanted to file a petition to the Supreme court regarding Article VIII(3) of the Merger Agreement which read as "… The Government of India also undertakes to make suitable provisions for the employment of Manipuris in the various branches of Public Services; and in every way encourage Manipuris to join them. They also undertake to preserve various laws, customs and conventions prevailing in the state pertaining to the social, economic and religious life of the people."

The objective was-to give employment to our youths who are well-educated but with no job opportunity.

An RTI was already filed to CIC, New Delhi, and a true copy of the Merger Agreement had already been obtained from Union Home Ministry after I personally urged the case at CIC, New Delhi Office. I thus became the 1st Manipuri to represent such a case as well as obtain a verdict from the CIC, New Delhi.

I had already filed my AFSPA repeal case at Supreme court in 2012. All my pension money was about to empty and I am in bed financial position as I am not that rich.

As I don't have the money to approach the Supreme Court, I, with Prof Jasawanta of MU & some leaders of student organisations met Shree Nitin Gadkari while he was visiting Imphal as BJP President through Basant Sharma who was Publicity I/C of state BJP.

After explaining the mater, Gadkari agreed to provide a Sr. Supreme Court lawyer for the proposed PIL. Accordingly, I along with Basanta, went to Delhi in the chilly December 2013 and pursued the case. Gadkari made the services of Sr. Advocate Ms. Pinky Anand (present Solicitor General) for the same.

The PILs: The 1st WP(C) No.1001/2013 was heard on 17/12/2013 at Supreme Court. After a healthy discussion, the double bench consisting Justice B.S. Chauhan and Justice S.A. Bobde asked my Counsel to 1st approach the State High Court and came back when necessary.

Accordingly, my lawyer withdrew the case with liberty to approach the High Court. Accordingly, the 2nd PIL no.7/2014 was filled in February 2014 at State High Court. After dragging on for 2 yrs. or so, the double bench of Justice LK Mahapatra & Justice Songkhupchung Serto finally delivered the blow on 04/04/2016 by dismissing it by citing- '…Since we hold that allegation of non-implementation of certain promise under Merger Agreement is itself a dispute, in view of the Article 363 of the Constitution of India, this Court lacks jurisdiction to decide the dispute'.

The reader can now see my shock and disappointment. I have no alternative except to approach the Hon'ble Supreme Court again which is time consuming and money consuming.

My restless mind was, however, always striving for a final 'yes' or 'no' from the Apex Court. Accordingly, I approached the Supreme Court and the hearing was held on 22-01-2018 by a double bench consisting Justice Chelameswar & justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul. The court dismissed the SLP by stating- 'We do not see any ground to interfere with the impugned order. The special leave petition is accordingly dismissed'.

Where is the dispute? In the press conference held on 17/03/2018 at Press Club, I had explained the background. The same opinion was also expressed in a panel live discussion at Impact TV on 18/03/2018 later on. The contents of Article VIII(3) of the Shillong Merger Agreement is the one quoted above.

This clause is very Manipur specific and is the only one worth mentioning for the benefit of Manipuri youths struggling for employment. This is not found anywhere in other 20 even Merger Agreements as contained in GOI white paper.

My lawyer mentioned it in the PIL and urged the same. We have urged that there is no dispute and the prayer is only meant for implementation of a particular clause of the Agreement. In spite of this, the High Court held it as a dispute citing 2 Supreme Court/Rajasthan High Court judgements related to privy purges of the erstwhile native princes.

Conclusion: Your petitioner has spent a lot of time, energy and money for this PIL. I have tried my level best for our youths, but success is eluding. I still hold that this judgement of the highest courts is very unreasonable, controversial and without any foundation.

If one take it at its face-value, i.e. non-implementation of a particular clause of an agreement as a dispute, that too, citing an example of another different context, is itself opening a can of worms. Can this society presume that the Merger Agreement is itself a dispute? I left it to our Intellectuals and Civil Societies to have a re-look and an in-depth analysis of the Merger Agreement based on this judgement.

On my part, I will be writing letters to BJP President Amit Shah and Union Minister Gadkari requesting to implement the same. I will also be writing a similar letter to our CM to forward the same to the Hon'ble PM Modi requesting the same. Besides these, I have no other option left, sorry dear Manipuris.

* Dr Th Suresh Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
Dr Th Suresh is ex-Director, Health & WHO Fellow
This article was posted on April 15, 2018.

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