Supreme Court on Wednesday said the half century old border dispute between Assam and Nagaland could be resolved either by deciding the 1988 law suit filed by Assam or by referring the matter for arbitration.
“There are only two legal ways of dealing it. One is that we should decide the suit or the other is that it be referred for arbitration,” a three-judge bench headed by Justice T S Thakur said.
Later, the court asked the counsel for Assam, which had filed the suit in 1988 seeking reliefs including demarcation of its over 500 kms long border with Nagaland, to file the list of its witnesses along with their testimonies in the form of affidavits with the apex court registrar within three months.
“We make it clear that no further time will be granted,” the bench, also comprising justices R K Agrawal and Adarsh Kumar Goel, said.
It also directed the Registrar General of Supreme Court to conduct the trial in the lawsuit on “day-to-day” basis from April 20 and said the witnesses, whose affidavits will be filed by Assam, will have to appear for the cross-examination.
At the outset, Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar, appearing for Centre, referred to the response of the government and said that a meeting of Chief Ministers of Assam and Nagaland with the Union Home Minister had taken place at New Delhi on October 29 last year to resolve the issue.
However, the meeting remained inconclusive and Nagaland Chief Minister had sought time, the SG said.
Dealing with other aspects, the Solicitor General referred to a report of the Surveyor General of India (SGI) and said the Assam-Nagaland border cannot be demarcated as the SGI maps have not been authenticated on the ground by both the state governments.
However, satellite imagery of the disputed areas will be helpful to find out the “contours” of the real issue, he said.
On the issue as to which state will have control over the disputed area for maintaining law and order and administrative purposes, the bench said, “it is for the political executive to decide and it cannot be managed by the judiciary.”
Earlier, the court had come down heavily on the Centre saying it cannot remain a “mute spectator” to the 50-year-old border dispute between Assam and Nagaland.
Outlining the questions relating to the dispute, it had said, “There are two issues. One is what is the border? Another is what should be the border? We can decide the first issue. Second one can be decided by experts. Alteration of border is a political issue.”
Assam and Nagaland share boundary and the border dispute dates back to 1963 when Nagaland was carved out of Assam’s Naga Hills district.
Nagaland has been demanding some portions that it believes “historically” belong to it and seeks “restoration” of all Naga territories.
However, the Assam government wants to maintain the boundary which had been decided on December 1, 1963 when Nagaland was created.