Friday, September 29, 2023

Supreme Court sets aside Bombay HC order declaring Gowari community a Scheduled Tribe

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The Supreme Court has set aside the order of the Bombay High Court which declared the Gowari community as Gond Gowari, a Scheduled Tribe while allowing an appeal by the State of Maharashtra.

The Bombay High Court in its judgement dated 14.08.2018 had held that the tribe Gond Gowari was extinct before 1911 and no trace of it was found either in the Maratha Country of Central Provinces and Berar or in the State of Madhya Pradesh prior to 1956.

The High Court  further held that there did not exist any tribe known as Gond Gowari as on 29-10-1956 i.e. the date of its inclusion as 28th item in Entry No. 18 of the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes ) Order, 1950 in relation to the State of Maharashtra and it has Gowari community alone shown as Gond Gowari, therein.

Aggrieved by the HC order, the State of Maharashtra filed a Civil Appeal before the Supreme Court. The bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, R. SubhashReddy and M.R. Shah observed, “The conclusion of the High Court that Research Officers did not find any Entry as Gond Gowari is factually incorrect.”

The bench has held that “The caste Gowari and Gond Gowari are two distinct and separate castes. We have extracted the description of Gowari and Gond Gowari given by Russell and Hiralal in the celebrated book, The Tribes and Castes of Central Provinces of India. Russell and Hiralal have separately dealt with Gowari and Gond Gowari and have categorically stated that Gond Gowari have been treated as distinct castes from Gowari. We may also refer to the book published by the Anthropological Survey of India, People of India, National Series Volume III on  The Scheduled Tribes, where Gond Gowari have been described in following words: –

“GOND, GOWARI They are a community of cattle herders who have been referred to by Russell and Hiralal (1916) as the Gond-Gowari and described as a small hybrid caste formed by an alliance between the Gonds and Gowaris. They have been enlisted as Gowari, a subgroup of the Gond in the Government of India list for scheduled tribes. Our findings, however, reveal that they are a discrete community and not a subgroup of any other tribe. They are distributed in the Bhandara, Amravati and Garhchiroli districts of Maharashtra and in the Balaghat and Sioni districts of Madhya Pradesh. Marathi is spoken for both inter-and intra-group communication. The Devanagari script is used. The Gowari are short and medium-statured people with a dark complexion. The main diet is rice, jowar and wheat, local pulses and seasonal vegetables. They are non-vegetarians but do not eat beef.”

The Gowari, which is another backward community, has not been included in the list of Scheduled Tribes.

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