Subhas Chandra Pattanayak
A dispute before the Supreme Court raised by a woman of Scheduled Tribes of Orissa has brought to light the fact that members of the scheduled tribes are strictly not Hindus, even though the practitioners of Hinduism have been claiming them to show the numerical strength of their religion.
Kamala Negi, daughter of Chakradhar Negi, Mouza Kopsingha in the District of Sundergarh was denied her share of compensation against acquisition of land belonging to her late father, as the Hindu Sccession Act, 1956 bestows upon daughters the equal right with the brothers over properties of deceased parents. With her prayer rejected from the level of the Land Acqquisition Officer to the High Court of Orissa, she had moved the Supreme Court in CIVIL APPEAL NO. 6901 OF 2022.
Delivering the verdict on the 9th this month, a Bench comprising Justice M. R. Shah and Justice Krishna Murari have dismissed the appeal on the ground that the statute that guarantees equal shares for male and female heirs as per the Hindu Succession Act is not applicable to the Shedules Tribes under Section 2(2) thereof.
Section 2(2) of The Hindu Succession Act, 1956 says, “Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (1), nothing contained in this Act shall apply to the members of any Scheduled Tribe within the meaning of clause (25) of Article 366 of the Constitution unless the Central Government, by notification in the Official Gazette, otherwise directs.”
In view of this, while expressing dismay over its own inability to grant the appeal, the Appex Court has urged upon the Central Government to consider if the Hindu Succession Act could be amended to cover the Schedule Tribes.
“Though we dismiss the present appeal, it is directed to examine the question by the Central Government to consider it just and necessary to withdraw the exemptions provided under the Hindu Succession Act in so far as the applicability of the provisions of the Hindu Succession Act to the Scheduled Tribes and whether to bring a suitable amendment or not”, The Court has noted, while concluding, “We hope and trust that the Central Government will look into the matter and take an appropriate decision taking into consideration the right to equality guaranteed under Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India. This concluding para of the judgment is based on its anxiety to ensure equal right of the daughters in the scheduled Tibe communities over the propertie of deceased parents. “When a daughter belonging to a non-¬tribal is entitled to the equal share in the property of the father, there is no reason to deny such right to the daughter of a tribal community” the court observed.
Be it so.
But the fact which is of much interest to our societal structure is that, the people belonging to Scheduled Tribes are not included in the Hindu Succession Act, which meaans, they are not Hindus.Subsection (1) of Section 2 has defined Hindus by pinpointing its application (a) to any person, who is a Hindu by religion in any of its forms or developments, including a Virashaiva, a Lingayat or a follower of the Brahmo, Prarthana or Arya Samaj, (b) to any person who is a Buddhist, Jaina or Sikh by religion, and (c) to any other person who is not a Muslim, Christian, Parsi or Jew by religion, unless it is proved that any such person would not have been governed by the Hindu law or by any custom or usage as part of that law in respect of any of the matters dealt with herein if this Act had not been passed”. This definition or extended definition doesnot put clearly the Scheduled Tribe Communities under the category of Hindus.
It is important to note that when the Hindu Succession Act was framed and promulgated, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru was the Prime Minister and Charu Chandra Biswas CIE was the Law Minister of India. Both of them were great lawyers and knew well the meaning of keeping Scheduled Tribes out of the ambit of Hindu Succession Act.