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Report No. 14

7. Administration of Justice in the tribal areas.-

The administration of the tribal areas is regulated by the provisions of the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution. Separate provisions are made for the administration of civil and criminal justice in these areas. All areas in each of the items of Part A of the table appended to the schedule constitute autonomous districts. If there are different scheduled tribes in an autonomous district, such area or areas in which the scheduled tribes live can be divided by the Governor into autonomous regions. The administration of each autonomous district and autonomous region is vested in what is known as the district council and regional council.

The district and regional councils have the power to constitute village councils or courts for the trial of suits and cases between the parties, all of whom belong to scheduled tribes within such areas, other than suits and cases to which the provisions of sub-paragraph (1) of paragraph 5 of the schedule apply, to the exclusion of any court in the State. They have also the power to appoint suitable persons to be members of such village councils or as presiding officers of such courts. The appellate jurisdiction is vested in the regional or district councils and no other court except the High Court and the Supreme Court has jurisdiction over such suits or cases.

The High Court exercises such jurisdiction over the suits and cases to which provisions of sub-para (2) of para 4 apply, as the Governor may from time to time specify. The suits or cases excluded from the jurisdiction of these tribal courts are those arising out of any law in force in the autonomous district or region, being a law specified in that behalf by the Governor or those relating to the trial of offences punishable with death, transportation for life or imprisonment for a term not less than five years under the Indian Penal Code or any other law for the time being applicable to such district or region.

For the trial of such suits or cases the Governor is empowered to confer on the district councils or the regional councils or on courts constituted by such district councils or the regional councils or on any officer appointed in that behalf by the Governor, such powers under the Code of Civil Procedure or the Code of Criminal Procedure, as the case may be, as he deems appropriate and thereupon the said council or court shall try the suits or cases in exercise of the powers so conferred. Except as aforesaid, the Codes of Civil Procedure and Criminal Procedure do not apply to any autonomous district or region.

8. In all, there are twenty-five councils presided over by hereditary Chieftains to dispose of cases which they are empowered to try under the law according to their tribal and local customs having the force of law. A Judicial Officer with knowledge of the work of these courts who gave evidence before us said that the courts presided over by tribal Chieftains lacked training and experience in law but added that they should be allowed to continue for some time before the introduction of the regular judicial system in those areas.

The litigation in the tribal courts generally relates to land disputes, succession to hereditary rights, customary rights and boundary disputes. There are a few murders and dacoities often committed through drunkenness. It seems that for the trial of cases referred to in paragraph 5 of the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution, the services of judicial officers in the non-tribal areas are lent to the tribal areas.

9. More and more laws, in force in the non-tribal areas, are by degrees being applied to the autonomous districts and regions of the tribal areas in the State. In the Khasi Hills district, the general criminal law is applicable but in the United Khasi and Jaintia Hills territories the district council laws are applied. Some difficulty, it is stated, is being experienced in applying the excise laws to the areas under the district councils where illicit distillation of liquor goes on a very large scale.

The Chief Secretary explained in his evidence that the tribal people were very anxious to bring within the scope of their district or regional councils as large an area as possible. The laws in force in the non-tribal areas have not been extended to the tribal areas because of the policy of the State Government to allow the tribal people to make their own laws under the third paragraph of the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution and to administer those laws with the help of the Deputy Commissioner and his Assistant. In view of the special conditions in the tribal areas we refrain from making any recommendations regarding the pattern of judicial administration in these areas.

10. The High Court pendency.-

In 1956, the High Court functioned with three judges including the Chief Justice. Though the volume of work in the High Court is small, the disposal has not kept pace with the institutions and the pendency has steadily increased during the last few years as will appear from the Table given below:

Table No. 1

Nature of proceeding

1954

1955

1956

Pending at the beginning

Institutions

Disposals

Pending at the beginning

Institutions

Disposals

Pending at the beginning

Institutions

Disposals

Pending on.-1-1957

Regular First Appeals

74

24

16

82

36

14

104

32

24

112

Regular Second Appeals

179

111

122

168

158

122

204

166

143

227

Appeals against Orders

57

33

34

56

61

40

77

53

34

96

Letters Patent or Special Appeals

..

..

..

..

..

..

..

5

4

4

Writ Petitions

16

118

64

70

85

124

31

121

72

80

Review Petitions

..

..

..

..

..

..

..

..

..

..

Civil Revision Petitions

18

90

94

14

77

70

21

75

64

32

Reference

5

3

2

6

2

2

6

1

3

4

Petitions for leave to appeal to Supreme Court

15

19

25

9

11

13

7

15

16

6

Original Suits

5

42

11

36

4

30

10

8

3

15

Miscellaneous

26

37

41

22

17

18

21

46

30

37

Criminal Appeals

50

111

105

56

111

89

78

194

91

181

Criminal Revisions

5

157

149

58

156

159

55

179

171

63

Confirmation Cases

5

2

6

1

1

1

1

4

4

1

Reference under section 307 Cr. P.C.

..

4

..

4

3

4

3

4

2

5

Other references

18

48

34

32

30

34

28

58

47

39

Miscellaneous

2

3

3

2

..

2

..

3

..

2

11. It is necessary in our view to take prompt steps to control the increasing arrears.

12. The following Table shows the pendency of different classes of proceedings according to the year of institution as on 1st January, 1957.

Table No. 2

Nature of Proceeding

Year of Institution

1951

1952

1953

1954

1955

1956

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

Regular First Appeals

..

3

18

23

36

32

Regular Second Appeals

..

..

1

5

86

135

Appeals against orders

..

..

..

13

44

39

Letters Patent Appeals

..

..

..

..

..

4

Writs

..

..

..

5

31

44

Revisions

..

..

..

..

7

25

References

..

..

..

..

..

4

Leave to appeal to Supreme Court

..

..

..

..

..

6

Original Suits

1

1

4

7

1

1

Miscellaneous

..

..

..

..

3

60

Criminal Appeals

..

..

..

..

44

137

Criminal Revisions

..

..

..

..

3

60

Confirmation Cases

..

..

..

..

..

1

References under section 307, Cr.P.C.

..

..

..

..

1

4

Other References

..

..

..

..

1

38

Miscellaneous

..

..

..

..

..

3



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