By clearing the draft of a bill seeking to fix 1932 land records as the basis for certifying domicile, the JMM leader and Chief Minister Hemant Soren-led coalition government has clearly underlined the Jharkhand High Court’s judgment rejecting the similar move made by the BJP government in the past.
The draft of the bill approved by the JMM- Congress-RJD coalition government’s cabinet headed by Soren on September 14,2023, envisages to provide domicile only to those people whose family names were mentioned in the list of names of 1932 Khatiyan( land records) or in other land survey settlement records prior to that.
For those who are landless or don’t have 1932 Khatiyan for any reason, the Gram Sabha would have the power to certify them based on their language and customary traditions, as per the approved draft of the domicile bill of the Soren government.
The current domicile policy, required for claiming different government benefits including jobs,was passed by the previous BJP government led by CM Raghubar Das, had fixed 1985 as the base year to determine who would hold domicile status in Jharkhand which was carved out of Bihar as a separate state on November 15,2000.
Making 1932 land records as the basis for determining domicile in the state, where, as per 2011 census, tribals constitute 26.5 percent of the 3.26 crore population is a proposal that was struck down by the High Court in the past.
In fact, Jharkhand High Court had rejected the State government led by CM and BJP leader Babulal Marandi government’s notification on its domicile policy.
A Bench headed by Chief Justice V.K. Gupta had observed: "A person who is non-resident or an outsider is not prevented from applying for consideration of his or her case for appointment against any Class III or Class lV post in the State of Jharkhand, if otherwise eligible... This is hostile discrimination of the public at large."
"In our opinion," it added, "the two impugned notifications, insofar as... the subject of defining `local resident' to the procedure prescribed therefore are unconstitutional and on this ground and to this limited extent deserve to be struck down."
This judgment was passed by the Jharkhand High Court in response to two public interest petitions following the notifications issued by the BJP government on August 8 and 19, 2002.
The BJP government's policy had stipulated that persons whose names, or those of their forefathers, figure in the 1932 survey settlement of land records would be deemed "domicile" of Jharkhand, and such persons would be eligible to apply for government jobs (Class III and IV) and for admission to technical institutions. The Jharkhand High Court Bench headed by the then Chief Justice VK Gupta had dismissed this policy of the then Babulal Marandi government on January 3, 2003.
Records show that at that time the opposition JMM was elated over the above High Court order. "The judgment has exposed the Marandi government. The domicile policy was a conspiracy to misguide the Moolwasis. Had it not been so, the government would have got the policy cleared in the Assembly and Parliament. The Marandi government has shattered the dreams of the people of Jharkhand," it said.
Over two decades later, the same JMM which is now a ruling party led by Chief Minister Hemant Soren has not only got the draft of the bill approved by the Cabinet but described it as “ historic.
The JMM- Congress- RJD coalition government led by Hemant Soren’s move comes amid political turmoil in the state. There is a looming threat to the assembly membership of CM Soren for allegedly holding an office of profit by granting himself a stone mining lease in 2021.