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The CJI-led Supreme Court Bench on Friday, 26th July, has issued notice to Governors seeking response in a petition filed by Babita Kacchap, the National Organization Secretary of Adivasi Maha Sabha.

The petition seeks to direct Governors to function on the aid and advice of the Tribes Advisory Councils according to the provisions of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution, as against the advice of the Council of Ministers as per Article 163(1) of the Constitution.

The Tribes Advisory Council (TAC) is a constitutional body and it is the Governor’s discretion to make regulations on the advice rendered by the body. If paid heed to, it guarantees more autonomy to the tribal population in the regulation of their affairs by the government. On the real front however, Governors have seemed more inclined to act on the advice of the Council of Ministers only.

The petition complains of “the complete and total abdication of powers by the Governor (while acting upon the aid and advice of the Tribes Advisory Council) of each and every State of this country as are available to him/her under the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution has led to complete stultification of the rights of indigenous people to self-determination.”

The petition also seeks to oust non-ST members appointed in the Tribes Advisory Council. Furthermore, it has prayed for a direction to set aside the orders of Election Commission of India notifying reserved seats for Scheduled Tribes on the ground that those constituencies did not have a ‘preponderance of tribal population’.

It has been argued that politicization of the TAC has led to diminish the agitating power of the STs for policies through the body. It has largely become a tool for political parties to garner votes in the state and general election, mentioning, “The candidates for the elections are given tickets by leading political parties based on the current demographics of the constituency and the candidates align themselves with the majority of the constituency.”

Court has, however, not issued notice on the prayer for setting aside election on this ground.

-India Legal Bureau 

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