Shillong, July 21 (IANS) The Supreme Court Monday put off a hearing to decide the tribal status of Meghalaya Chief Minister Dr Mukul Sangma as one of the judges in the bench had appeared for the petitioner as an advocate earlier this year.
"The court did not take up matter as one of the judges - Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman - in the bench had appeared for the petitioner as an advocate earlier this year," Ranjan Mukherjee, counsel for the Meghalaya government, said over phone from New Delhi.
He said the court decided that the matter would be heard by a bench, of which Justice Nariman is not a member.
Mukherjee, however, said the court did not fix any fresh date for hearing the matter.
Justice Nariman was recently elevated as a judge in the Supreme Court. He had practised as a counsel in the Apex Court and also as counsel for Tennydard M. Marak and All North East Indigenous Garo Law Promoters Association (ANEIGLPA) against Mukul Sangma.
On May 9, the Supreme Court stayed proceedings of the State Level Scrutiny Committee, which was constituted to verify the Scheduled Tribe status of the chief minister.
The committee, which was to submit its report to the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, was constituted on March 19.
However, the Supreme Court issued a stay on the proceedings of the committee following a petition filed by Marak on April 12 and another by the association on April 20, challenging the legality and jurisdiction of the committee.
The Supreme Court had on January 20 directed the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes to decide the tribal status of Dr Mukul Sangma within eight weeks.
Marak filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) alleging that Dr Sangma had fraudulently obtained the Scheduled Tribe certificate by "misrepresentation and suppressing the material facts".
The ANEIGLPA had alleged that Dr Sangma does not belong to the Sangma clan and that he used his surname only to obtain a Scheduled Tribe certificate.
On October 7, 2013, the Meghalaya High Court dismissed as "non-maintainable" a PIL challenging the Scheduled Tribe status of Dr Sangma.
In the past, certain groups and individuals had raised the issue because the Chief Minister's late mother Roshanara Begum was a non-Garo.
The Manda clan, to which Dr Sangma belongs, has come out in his defence.