Setback to Gowari community: SC sets aside HC order declaring Gowari as ST

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Nagpur : The top court of the country on Friday has set aside the order of the Bombay High Court which declared the Gowari community as Gond-Gowari, a Scheduled Tribe while allowing an appeal by the State of Maharashtra In its judgement in August 2018, the Bombay high court had held that the tribe Gond-Gowari was extinct before 1911 and no trace of it was found either in the Maratha Country of Central Provinces and Berar or in the State of Madhya Pradesh prior to 1956.

The High Court further held that there did not exist any tribe known as Gond-Gowari as on 29-10-1956 i.e. the date of its inclusion as 28th item in Entry No. 18 of the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes ) Order, 1950 in relation to the State of Maharashtra and it has Gowari community alone shown as Gond-Gowari, therein.

Challenging the high court order, the Maharashtra government had filed a Civil Appeal before the Supreme Court. The bench comprising Justice Ashok Bhushan, Justice R Subhash Reddy and Justice MR Shah observed, “The conclusion of the High Court that Research Officers did not find any Entry as Gond-Gowari is factually incorrect.” The bench has held that “The caste Gowari and Gond-Gowari are two distinct and separate castes. We have extracted the description of Gowari and Gond-Gowari given by Russell and Hiralal in the celebrated book, The Tribes and Castes of Central Provinces of India. Russell and Hiralal have separately dealt with Gowari and Gond-Gowari and have categorically stated that Gond-Gowari have been treated as distinct castes from Gowari.

Earlier, the Nagpur bench of the Bombay high court had observed, “people of the Gowari community in Maharashtra cannot be denied the benefits of Scheduled Tribes merely because the community is shown in the list of Special Backward Classes. The state government is unlikely to appeal against the high court order in the Supreme Court. After the long legal battle, the high court gave its verdict that Gowaris are tribals and entitled for reservation under the ST category.

This had led the state to appeal before the Apex Court. The Gowaris have been seeking inclusion in the ST category for long, and a stampede during community’s protest over the issue at Nagpur on November 23, 1994 had claimed lives of 114 people and injured 500. The then Maharashtra chief minister Sharad Pawar was slammed by the opposition and due to anguish over the state tribal minister Madhukar Pichad had resigned on ethical grounds. The Gowari community used to get 2 per cent reservation as part of Special Backward Class, however, after getting included in the ST category, the community is likely to get more benefits.