Case Analysis: Karma Dorjee v. Union of India

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

Original Civil Jurisdiction Writ Petition (Civil) No. 103 of 2014

Karma Dorjee & Ors.Petitioners  
Union of India & Ors.Respondents  
CitationAIR 2017 SC 113  
Date of Judgement14th December 2016  
BenchT.S. Thakur, D.Y. Chandrachud, L Nageswara Rao

Introduction:

On 14th December 2016, the case of Karma Dorjee v. Union of India[1] was decided by a bench comprising D.Y. Chandrachud, L.Nageswara Rao and T.S. Thakur. Through the medium of the petition, the petitioners have thrown light upon the discrimination and brutality faced by people belonging to the north-eastern states. Further, a need has been expressed for setting up of guidelines and taking necessary steps for curbing such acts of discrimination against people from north-eastern states which would facilitate them in living their lives fearlessly in any part of the nation.

Historical Background:

North-eastern states have eight neighboring states having boundaries touching China, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar. Since ancient times, there has been a land connection between the India and Bangladesh facilitating illegal immigration cross-borders. North-eastern states had always attracted the attention of British regime due to China. In 1874, a separate province named Assam was formed. The British passed Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation for safeguarding the indigenous groups in Assam and restricting the entry of outsiders isolating them from the rest of the world.

In 1979, a lot of protests were observed in Assam for deporting outsiders who entered the State in 1951 for deporting the illegal Bengali muslim immigrants. The protests resulted in the death of many innocent lives and property. After six years of chaos, Rajiv Gandhi, then Prime Minister, entered into a memorandum of settlement named “Assam Accord” with the protestors for maintaining peace.

Background of the case:

The proceedings in the present case have been initiated under Article 32 of the Constitution of India. The petitioners have pointed out how paradoxical it is to see the existence of such discrimination in the 21st century. Further, they talk about the irony of secular India where, on one side, the people from north-eastern states who come in search for service and better education acquire knowledge as well as adapt themselves to the culture of the other states, however, on the other side, there is no reciprocating sensitivity towards them, their concerns are neglected and are looked down upon by other people. The persons from north-eastern states are denied the access to basic facilities and there is a lack of fair allocation of resources (hospitals, public transport, job opportunities). Such acts, according to the petitioners are in contravention of the fundamental duty under Article 51A (e) of the Constitution of India and require the attention of the Court.

Facts:

For providing a backing to the petition with factual details, the petitioners have referred to the instances reported by the media houses since 2009.26th of October, 2009, a woman was burnt to death in her house’s kitchen by an unwanted stalker who had made advances towards her.

17th of April 2012: A student from Manipur, after being assaulted had died in the hostel.

August 2012: An atmosphere of panic was created amongst a community in Karnataka due to the spread of belligerent messages on social media.

29th May 2013, a Manipuri girl was murder in a rented flat in the national capital region.

25th January 2014: A women from north-eastern states were molested and had to hear racial criticism.

29th January 2014: In Lajpat Nagar, New Delhi, a student was subject to racial taunts and assaulted to death.

Reliefs claimed:

The petitioners seek a mandamus issuing direction for:

  1. Formulation of mechanism within the Union Government and States for dealing with the cases related to racial discrimination and intolerance.
  2. Constitution of a special investigation team by the Delhi government under the head of Judge of the Supreme Court for investigating into the instances of atrocity.
  3. Introduction of schemes for creating awareness and promoting equality, at the State and Union level.

Arguments by both the parties:

The petitioners begin by mentioning about the Article 15 of the Constitution of India which ensures protection to persons from any kind of discrimination. They further plead for drawing a parallel picture to the acts of racial discrimination faced by the persons belonging to north-eastern states. India is a signatory to the International Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and hence, bound to enforce its obligation under the law.

On 5th February 2014, a Committee was constituted by the Union Government for dealing with the concerns of persons from north-eastern states residing in various spheres of the country. Shri M P Bezbaruah was appointed as the Chairperson. The recommendations by the Committee were classified into the following categories:

  • Immediate measures- requiring implementation within a period of six months to one year.

These traverse into the following areas:

  1. Establishing new statutes or making an amendment to the existing laws.
  2. Providing services for legal assistance and establishing new courts to ensure speedy justice.
  3. Making law enforcement agencies stronger by allotting them more power, autonomy and charge.
  4. Using sports as a medium for developing stronger bonds and motivating people to opt sports as a career and receive coaching at minimal costs.
  5. Special police initiations including proactive regional action.
  6. Educating students and adults about the north-eastern states and their culture and traditions.
  7. Focussing on the north-east in information and broadcasting media.
  8. Appointing IAS level officers
  9. Short term measures-needing implementation within one to one and a half years.
  10. Long term measures: requiring implementation within one and a half to two year.

In its counter affidavit, the Union Government stated that the recommendations made by the Committee were accepted and relevant measures had been taken for implementing them for dealing with the concerns of persons belonging from north-eastern states residing in various parts of the nation. Further, it was claimed that the Delhi Police had taken initiatives for inculcating a sense of security amongst persons belonging to north-east and special officers had been appointed for investigating the problems they faced.

Related Laws:

Reference has been made to the Constitution of India, the International Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Assam Accord and the Bengal Eastern Regulation Act.

Article 15 of the Constitution of India:

According to Article 15 of the Constitution of India, there is a prohibition on discrimination on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.

The International Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD):

The Convention was enforced on 4th January 1969. The objective of the convention is to encourage State Parties in condemning and prohibiting racial discrimination and creating such policies that eliminate racial discrimination in every form and promote understanding among all the races

The Assam Accord:

On 15th August 1985, the Assam Accord was signed between the leaders involved in Assam Movement and representatives of Indian government for maintaining peace. In 1986, the first amendment was made to the Citizenship Act. The protestors made a demand for the identification of deportation of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants.

The Bengal Eastern regulation Act

The State government has the authority to restrict by notification the passing of any or all of its citizens, or persons residing within the districts from going beyond such line in the absence of pass and seal of chief executive officer of such district.

Related Cases:

In Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan[2], the Supreme Court observed that “according to the rule of judicial construction, regard must be given to international conventions for interpreting domestic law when there is no inconsistency between them and there is a void in the domestic law”.

Judgement:

While delivering the judgement, Justice D Y Chandrachud stated that the discrimination faced by persons from north-eastern states is an issue pertaining to enforcement of law. However, the law enforcement agencies cannot alone resolve this issue. There is a need to change the mindset of students studying at educational institutions, workplaces and other places and foster a sense of brotherhood and inclusion. Education about the history, culture and traditions of the north-east should be imparted. It is the need of the hour to address the concerns of persons from north-eastern states related to poverty, security, employment and fundamental rights. The union and state government should take positive initiatives for ensuring racial equality as enshrined in our Constitution and international conventions we are a part of.  Further, a two-member committee shall be appointed for monitoring that the recommendations of MP Bezbaruah Committee are implemented, government is taking action for preventing discrimination and raise issues related to discrimination to the concerned state authorities.

Analysis of the judgement:

Though the judgement is well-written, still there are certain aspects that the Court has failed to address and require great attention. Firstly, along with the formation of Committee, fast track courts should also be established for ensuring speedy justice and disposal of case related to discrimination. Secondly, a procedure should be laid down which a person can follow in case he faces discrimination. Thirdly, a migrant task force should be formed which shall ensure that illegal migrants are safely deported back to their country. Lastly, a fund should be allocated for catering the needs of the people from north-eastern states.

Conclusion:

The union and state government must implement the suggestions made by the MP Bezbaruah Committee and the Supreme Court. This shall help prevent any kind of discrimination and ensure an inclusive atmosphere for people from north-eastern states. India is a country that demonstrates “Unity in diversity”, hence, we all must respect and understand different cultures and traditions that are followed by people. A sense of unity must be developed among the people of all communities.

Possible Questions

  1. What are the facts surrounding the present case?
  2. Whether the government at Union and State level has implemented the recommendations suggested by MP Bezbaruah Committee?
  3. Whether the current policies and measures are sufficient for addressing the concerns of people from north-eastern states?
  4. What judgement was delivered by the Supreme Court in the present case?
  5. What measures were suggested by the Supreme Court for creating an inclusive environment for the people belonging to north-eastern states?

[1] AIR 2017 SC 113

[2] AIR 1997 SC 3011

Ayush Verma (April 2, 2020), “Karma Dorjee v. Union of India”, Retrieved from https://blog.ipleaders.in/karma-dorjee-v-union-of-india-and-others/

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