The Supreme Court has agreed to examine a plea by the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) challenging the state government’s refusal to transfer administrative power over Darjeeling hills to it despite a 2011 tripartite agreement drawn up to the effect.
The bench headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur, asked counsels PP Rao and Shamik Sanjawala, appearing for GTA member Binay Tamang, to place before the court the notification issued by the West Bengal government in 2011. As per this notification, the government had promised transfer of power under a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the state, Centre and GTA.
The petition said that in utter disregard of the MoU and the GTA Act, the state government had been reticent in fully transferring the departments and subjects mentioned in the agreement. Tamang, the petitioner in the case, has been granted two weeks to present the notification. His petition claimed that transfer of power was necessary due to “unreasonable, arbitrary and illegal actions and omissions on the part of the respondent state government” and added that it was “impinging upon the fundamental rights of the Gorkha people living in the hill areas of the district of Darjeeling”.
The petition comes at a time when the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) has amped up its cry for separate statehood. Its position in the hills at present is precarious, with a number of senior leaders including GTA chairman Pradeep Pradhan jumping ship to the TMC. Moreover, its performance in the recently concluded elections in the state did not match up to expectations. GJM insiders, Bimal Gurung had threatened to quit GTA and relaunch the movement for a separate Gorkhaland.