SC removes reference to Sikkimese-Nepalese as ‘persons of foreign origin’ in its verdict

New Delhi:  The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the removal of reference to the Sikkimese-Nepalese as “people of foreign origin” from a judgment it passed on January 13, in connection with tax exemption in Sikkim.

The Ministry of Home Affairs had filed a review petition against some of apex court observations referring to Sikkimese Nepalis as “immigrants” and sought modification.

A bench of Justices M.R. Shah and B.V. Nagarathna agreed to remove the part “the persons of foreign origin settled in Sikkim like the Nepalese”.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, requested the bench to delete the entire sentence. Citing the reasons for the error, the bench said the original writ petitioners have made more than 25 amendments to the petition but this fact was not brought to its notice.

After brief hearing in the matter, the bench removed the part “namely the Bhutia Lepchas and the persons of foreign origin settled in Sikkim like the Nepalese”.

This remark had sparked protests in Sikkim, with the Sikkimese-Nepalese community taking strong objections over it.

Mehta urged the court to clarify that its verdict did not touch the aspect of Article 371F of the Constitution, which deals with special provisions with respect to Sikkim.

The top court said this clarification is unnecessary as Article 371F was not a subject matter of the case.

It modified its verdict after hearing the plea filed by the Centre and also petitions filed by Sikkim and private parties seeking modification of the remark.

Justice Nagarathna, who authored the verdict on behalf of the bench, dictating the modifications in the order, said: “It is to be noted that in the said writ petition there was an amended writ petition filed pursuant to an application filed.”

The apex court, in its verdict, had ruled that the exclusion of a Sikkimese woman from exemption allowed under the Income Tax Act merely because she has married a non-Sikkimese man after April 1, 2008 is “discriminatory and unconstitutional”.


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