SC dismisses plea seeking withdrawal of Inner Line Permit in Nagaland

PIL sought direction to take steps for protection of life and liberty, properties, other fundamental rights of non-Nagas living in Dimapur.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed a plea seeking direction to the Centre and Nagaland government to not extend the Inner Line Permit (ILP) in new areas and ascertain the feasibility of withdrawing it.

The PIL, filed by BJP leader Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, sought direction to take steps for protection of life and liberty, properties and other fundamental rights of non-Nagas living in Dimapur due to imposition to ILP.

The plea was dismissed by a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose.

The petition sought direction to declare that "all Indian citizens shall have the right to move freely throughout the territory of India and Sections 2, 3 and 4 of the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873, which gives unbridled power to the State to prescribe ILP for Indian citizens, is arbitrary unreasonable and offends Articles 14, 15, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India."

It stated that the colonial era regulation was passed by the then British government to prohibit Indian citizens from moving to select districts to create a monopoly in business and the State Cabinet has taken a decision to extend the operation of the 1873 Regulation in Dimapur.

It added, "Therefore, many non-Nagas who have landed properties with commercial shops, godowns, etc. and who are staying in as tenants, and many locals who earn their income by means of collecting house rent from tenants would be adversely affected."

"Gujaratis, Rajasthanis, Biharis, Jharkhandis, Bengalis, Gorkhas, Bodos, Dimasas, Karbis, Garos etc. have been regarded as outsiders by the government of Nagaland, which is racial discrimination," the petitioner contended.

The government should not encourage ILP system and should instead make sure that people of particular states are not deprived of economic opportunities due to migrants, it said, adding that the Constitution provides free movement of Indian citizens across the country and to get permission from the government to visit any place denies this right.

"Many traders/businessmen have to close down their business and leave Dimapur... a cosmopolitan town, such as Dimapur cannot be converted exclusively for Hill tribes on racial ground when it was never an integral part of Naga Hills," the petition read.

"When Nagaland acquired statehood, Dimapur, being a part of Assam, was legally and constitutionally excluded from the Naga Hills and from the Sixth Schedule. But, petitioner doesn't know how it was again included in the State of Nagaland after exclusion from Sixth Schedule?" the petitioner asked.

If all North-Eastern States adopt such an alien concept, then the concept of citizenship will be diluted and fundamental rights will be immensely circumscribed, said Upadhyay.

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