STATE OF MEGHALAYA Vs. MELVIN SOHLANGPIAW
LAWS(SC)-2020-2-94
SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
Decided on February 11,2020

STATE OF MEGHALAYA Appellant
VERSUS
Melvin Sohlangpiaw Respondents


Referred Judgements :-

LONGSAN KHONGNGAIN V. STATE OF MEGHALAYA [REFERRED TO]



Cited Judgements :-

LORINA JYRWA NONGSIEJ VS. ROBERT FELLER KHARBUKI [LAWS(MEGH)-2020-12-2] [REFERRED TO]
DONBOK BUAM VS. SUPERINTENDENT OF POLICE [LAWS(MEGH)-2021-11-11] [REFERRED TO]


JUDGEMENT

MOHAN M.SHANTANAGOUDAR,J. - (1.)The Respondent herein, a member of the Khasi Scheduled Tribe, was being tried for the offences punishable under Sections 302 and 201 of the Indian Penal Code ('IPC') before the Sessions Judge, Nongstoin, West Khasi Hills District. Briefly, the case set up by the prosecution is that a dead body was found lying on the Nondein river bank on 26.03.2017, pursuant to which the Officer in Charge of Police Station, Nongstoin ('Complainant') was informed and an FIR was registered by him. Upon investigation, the identity of the deceased person was known, who was also found to be a member of the Khasi Scheduled Tribe. With the use of a SIM card recovered from her body, the last calls made using her number were traced to the Respondent herein (accused). Consequently, the accused was arrested and he voluntarily lead the police to the spot where he had buried the dead body. On 31.08.2017, a chargesheet was filed against him under Sections 302 and 201, IPC. On 08.11.2017, the case was committed for trial to the Court of the Sessions Judge, Nongstoin, West Khasi Hills District and the accused was summoned to appear before it.
However, on the basis that the parties to the instant case are both tribals and thus, the case is exclusively triable by the District Council Court, the accused preferred a petition for transfer of the said case to the Court of Judge, Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council, Shillong. Vide the impugned judgment dated 05.12.2017, the High Court of Meghalaya, Shillong allowed this petition. The instant SLP has been filed against this order of the High Court.

(2.)At the very outset, it is important to note that the area where the alleged offence is said to have occurred, West Khasi Hills District, is a notified autonomous district included in the table appended to paragraph 20 of the 6 th Schedule to the Constitution of India ('the Constitution'), which deals with the administration of tribal areas in the States of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Tripura. Specifically, the aspect of judicial dispensation in such areas is dealt with under paragraphs 4 and 5 of the 6th Schedule to the Constitution as follows:
4. Administration of justice in autonomous districts and autonomous regions.--(1) The Regional Council for an autonomous region in respect of areas within such region and the District Council for an autonomous district in respect of areas within the district other than those which are under the authority of the Regional Councils, if any, within the district may 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 this Schedule apply, to the exclusion of any court in the State, and may appoint suitable persons to be members of such village councils or presiding officers of such courts, and may also appoint such officers as may be necessary for the administration of the laws made under paragraph 3 of this Schedule... ...(4) A Regional Council or District Council, as the case may be, may with the previous approval of the Governor make rules regulating--

(a) the constitution of village councils and courts and the powers to be exercised by them under this paragraph;

(b) the procedure to be followed by village councils or courts in the trial of suits and cases under sub paragraph (1) of this paragraph;

(c) the procedure to be followed by the Regional or District Council or any court constituted by such Council in appeals and other proceedings under sub paragraph (2) of this paragraph;

(d) the enforcement of decisions and orders of such councils and courts;

(e) all other ancillary matters for the carrying out of the provisions of subparagraphs (1) and (2) of this paragraph.

x x x

5. Conferment of powers under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, and the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 , on the Regional and District Councils and on certain courts and officers for the trial of certain suits, cases and offences.--(1) The Governor may, for the trial of suits or cases arising out of any law in force in any autonomous district or region being a law specified in that behalf by the Governor, or for the trial of offences punishable with death, transportation for life, or imprisonment for a term of not less than five years under the Indian Penal Code or under any other law for the time being applicable to such district or region, confer on the District Council or the Regional Council having authority over such district or region or on courts constituted by such District Council or on any officer appointed in that behalf by the Governor, such powers under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, or, as the case may be, the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898, as he deems appropriate, and thereupon the said Council, court or officer shall try the suits, cases or offences in exercise of the powers so conferred.

(emphasis supplied)

(3.)Relying on these provisions, learned Counsel for the Petitioner urged that under paragraph 4 of the 6 th Schedule to the Constitution, all of the parties to a suit or case must necessarily belong to Scheduled Tribes within such areas, for the District Council Court to have exclusive jurisdiction over such suits or cases. Given that a criminal case is always prosecuted by the State, he submitted that the instant case against the Respondent cannot be said to be a dispute between two tribals, as the deceased is not and cannot be a party to such a case. He also urged that the Complainant, i.e. the Officer in Charge at the Police Station, can also not be considered a party to the case, as he was acting in his official capacity and thus forms part of the State machinery.
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