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Pushing The Boundaries: Karnataka Confident of Winning Border Case against Maharashtra in SC, Say Experts

By: Rohini Swamy

Edited By: Pathikrit Sen Gupta

News18.com

Last Updated: November 29, 2022, 11:57 IST

Bengaluru, India

News18 has exclusively learned that Karnataka will place its argument along the lines that Maharashtra has no vested legal right to file the suit. (File photo: PTI)

News18 has exclusively learned that Karnataka will place its argument along the lines that Maharashtra has no vested legal right to file the suit. (File photo: PTI)

Karnataka expects to win the case pending in the Supreme Court in its favour based on the merits, said legal experts working closely on the case that is scheduled to come up in the apex court on November 30

Karnataka is confident of winning the Supreme Court case against Maharashtra on a border dispute as it feels the neighbouring state’s demand to merge Marathi-speaking districts does not have any legal maintainability.

Karnataka’s chief minister Basavaraj Bommai landed in the capital on Tuesday to apprise the central leadership of the legal measures taken by his state on the Karnataka-Maharashtra border row. His Maharashtra counterpart Eknath Shinde is set to dispatch two of his ministers to Belagavi to assess the ground situation on December 3.

Karnataka expects to win the case pending in the Supreme Court in its favour based on the merits, said legal experts working closely on the case that is scheduled to come up in the apex court on November 30.

“We are abiding by the law as well as the Constitution. There will be no change in the landscape of Karnataka," Bommai said after chairing a meeting with senior advocates and officials in Bengaluru on Sunday.

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News18 has exclusively learned that Karnataka will place its argument along the lines that Maharashtra has no vested legal right to file the suit.

“No state can claim that an area or village belongs to them. It is Parliament’s exclusive power and the courts cannot enter into that area at all. Maharashtra has called into question the law, namely SRC 1956 after about 67 years! They are trying to unsettle a settled issue," said a senior legal counsel working closely on the case.

Explaining the legal grounds on which the state feels confident, the legal expert who requested anonymity explained that neighbouring Maharashtra is challenging the powers vested in Parliament under Article 3 which gives Parliament the sole authority to increase or decrease the area of the state.

According to legal experts in Karnataka, Maharashtra is basing its argument predominantly on one basic premise — the 825 villages they are laying claim on have predominantly Marathi-speaking people. These villages are located in the Karnataka districts of Dharwad, Belgaum, Gulbarga, and Bidar.

Maharashtra says that the interests of the Marathi-speaking people living in these areas are not being taken care of by the Kannada-speaking state of Karnataka.

“They call it a violation of the fundamental right given to every citizen to preserve and protect their language. Has any citizen from these disputed areas to date gone to any court claiming that their Marathi-speaking status has been violated? The answer is no," said a member of the legal team Bommai has been consulting on how to defend their case in the apex court.

During the reorganisation, four districts belonging to the erstwhile Bombay Presidency — North Canara, Dharwad, Belgaum, and Bijapur were included in Karnataka. After the formation of the state in 1956, there was a discussion regarding Marathi-speaking people in the region and whether they should be included in Maharashtra. This was when the Mahajan commission was constituted which stated that the SRC report was correctly implemented. Maharashtra contested this, claiming the SRC report reorganised states largely based on linguistic lines and Marathi-speaking people were incorrectly included in Karnataka.

The 1967 Mahajan Commission in its report recommended that 264 villages be transferred to Maharashtra and left Belgavi and 247 villages remain with the southern state. The commission also recommended that Sholapur in Maharashtra and Kasargod in Kerala be handed over to the then-Mysore state.

Maharashtra rejected the report, calling it biased and illogical, and demanded another review which has been leading to verbal clashes between the CMs of both states. Karnataka has been asking to implement the commission report in toto, but the case in the SC has left the decision in limbo.

Now, the recent political flare-up on the boundary war between Karnataka and Maharashtra has put both BJP-ruled states on edge. Chief ministers of both states stoked a political fire causing fresh tensions in the Karnataka-Maharashtra border areas where buses were vandalised. Buses from Karnataka were pelted with stones and Marathi slogans were painted on them. In Mumbai, posters with Bommai’s face were splashed with black ink.

In this volatile background, Maharashtra ministers Chandrakant Patil and Shambhuraj Desai have been appointed nodal ministers to coordinate with the legal team regarding the court case on the state’s border dispute with Karnataka by the Eknath Shinde government. They will travel to Belgavi on December 3. A source working closely with Maharashtra told News18 that the ministers will closely monitor the problems faced by the residents of 865 villages over which the Maharashtra government has staked its claim.

Former BJP chief minister and Hubballi-Dharwad Central MLA Jagdish Shettar says that Maharashtra has been asking about the issue each time they face political turmoil in their state.

“Be it a Shiv Sena, BJP, or Congress government in Maharashtra, each time they have a shaky government or are facing a political crisis in their state they rake up the border issue with Karnataka to divert attention," Shettar told News18.

A recent meeting by the governors of Karnataka and Maharashtra on the simmering interstate boundary dispute has also raised eyebrows. Former minister and senior Congress leader HK Patil said that Karnataka governor Thaawar Chand Gehlot committed a mistake by discussing the border issue with his counterpart in Maharashtra.

“Karnataka and Maharashtra are states, not separate countries. The governors are not heads of separate countries, and who has given them the powers to discuss this issue?” questioned Patil who is also the Congress incharge in Maharashtra.

Belagavi-based political analyst Sarjoo Katkar said that from 1923 until 1966, 21 commissions were formed in total to resolve this issue. All of them voted in favour of Karnataka.

“The Mahajan commission also researched what the language of the local inhabitants or ‘moola nivasikalu’ in this disputed region was, and it was found to be Kannada,” Katkar said.

The analyst expressed his firm view that Parliament will “never take a final call on the border dispute as it was an emotionally charged and politically sensitive issue for both states and could harm the electoral prospects of the ruling party".

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first published:November 29, 2022, 11:17 IST
last updated:November 29, 2022, 11:57 IST
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