Meghalya HC directs inspection of schools discriminating against students of Indigenous faith

High Court of Meghalaya: The Court recently was dealing with the problems faced by Niam Khasi (Indigenous) Tribe in the State especially when the people of the tribe are not allowed to cremate the dead bodies in cremation ground in the name of environmental cause and a disturbance to ka imlang sahlang (social life) amongst other reasons. The petitioners’ counsel contended that in the guise of such excuses, the rights of the followers of the Niam Khasi faith has been abused, violated, trampled upon and ignored by a large section of society including the respondent authorities that is, headmistresses of two schools in Mylliem (where ordinary residents are Christian).

The Court was apprised with the two latest incidents of protests where the people of tribe were not allowed to cremate the dead bodies. In a judgment on the same issue in Seng Khasi Mylliem v. Shri Midnightborn Kharlukhi2017 SCC OnLine Megh 371 the Court had directed the Deputy Commissioner to fence the area allotted to and take other necessary steps to develop and to make it functional in the next months. The Court therefore, decided not to repeat whatever it had already held and considered the question before it in the instant petition.

The counsel for petitioner had alleged that the students of Hemon Zenith Secondary School, Mylliem and Sunny Hill Adventist School, Mylliem also took part and raised slogans against the cremation of a dead person belonging to the indigenous faith. In spite of the matter  being reported to different authorities, no action was taken and therefore, requested the Court to take proper action.

The Court observed that there is no doubt that some of the respondents definitely violated the provisions of the Constitution of India as well as other laws and totally shattered humanity. However, headmistresses of both the schools agreed that all the protests by students happened when the situation went out of their control. The Bench of S. Rynjah, J. posed a question as to what the future of the country will be if the children are not being taught properly about the Constitution, religious tolerance and mutual respect. The Court observed that the parents send their children to school so that they become responsible citizens of the country, not hooligans.

Counsel also told the Court that the students of indigenous faith in these schools were being made to sit separately to which the Court responded shockingly and called it a shameful act of school. The Judge stated that society should wake up and look into these types of issues and help India become ‘One Country, One Nation and One Family’. The Court directed the Superintendent of Police to look into the pending FIR and also directed DPI, School Education to send surprise periodical inspection team to see that the school should function without any favour or discrimination where students can study without fear. It further directed that if the same is repeated in the school, the inspection team is free to cancel the permission licence of both the schools. The writ petition was finally allowed and disposed as instructions stated above. [Ka Babymola Buhphang v. State of Meghalaya,  2017 SCC OnLine Megh 372, decided on 14.12.2017]

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