Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Supreme Court deletes remark describing Sikkimese-Nepalese persons as people of foreign origin from January verdict

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to delete remarks made in its January 13 judgment, which described Sikkimese-Nepalese persons as ‘people of foreign origin’. 

The Bench of Justice M.R. Shah and Justice B.V. Nagarathna had made these observations last month in the Association of Old Settlers of Sikkim vs Union of India case.

The verdict had sparked strong protests from Sikkimese-Nepalese community members in Sikkim and led to filing of applications by the Central government, the State of Sikkim and third parties seeking modification in the same. 

Authored by Justice Nagarathna, the controversial portion of the verdict said, “There was no difference made out between the original inhabitants of Sikkim, namely the Bhutia-Lepchas and the persons of foreign origin settled in Sikkim like the Nepalis or persons of Indian origin who had settled down in Sikkim generations back”.

Initially, the top court of the country had agreed to remove part of the sentence, which read “the persons of foreign origin settled in Sikkim like the Nepalis”. 
However, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta requested that the entire sentence be deleted. 

The Apex Court then agreed to remove the part, which said “namely the Bhutia Lepchas and the persons of foreign origin settled in Sikkim like the Nepalese.”

While hearing the applications today, the Bench noted that the writ petitioner had made certain amendments to the petition, which were not brought to the notice of the Court.

Justice Nagarathna, while reading out the modification order, said that there was an amended writ petition filed pursuant to an application filed. Unfortunately, the Counsel for the writ petitioners did not bring to the notice of this court substantial amendments brought forth. It was their duty to bring to the notice of the court, noted the Supreme Court judge. 

She said an MA had been filed in the Apex Court seeking corrections as if the error occurred from the point of the court. 
Justice Nagarathna further said that it was ‘just’ and ‘proper’ to correct certain words used in paragraph 10A and 68.8 in her judgment.

The January 13 verdict had ruled the exclusion of old Indian settlers, who had permanently settled in Sikkim prior to merger of Sikkim with India on April 26, 1975 from the definition of ‘Sikkimese’ in Section 10 (26AAA) of the Income Tax Act as unconstitutional. 

The Solicitor General further requested to make a clarification that the judgment has not touched upon the aspect of Article 371F. The Apex Court, however, observed that a clarification was unnecessary as Article 371F was not a subject matter of the case.

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