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The Supreme Court Monday permitted the Maharashtra government to amend its original suit challenging the validity of a law that allowed the inclusion of some areas with a Marathi-speaking population in Karnataka five decades ago.

An apex court bench of Justice J.M. Panchal and Justice A.K. Patnaik permitted the state government to amend its suit after senior counsel Harish Salve made a plea to this effect.

The Maharashtra government’s original suit filed in 2004 staked claim over areas with Marathi-speaking people in Karnataka. However, in its earlier suit, the state government had not challenged the validity of the States Reorganisation Act, 1956.

The court gave Maharashtra four weeks to amend its original suit and eight weeks thereafter to the central and Karnataka governments to file their responses. Senior counsel Fali Nariman appeared for Karnataka.

Maharashtra, by its 2004 suit and subsequent application in 2009, had staked claim over 814 villages spread over in Belgaum and Gulbarga districts of Karnataka. All these villages have predominantly Marathi-speaking people.

Maharashtra made the plea for amending the original suit after the central government last week rejected the state’s contention and sought the dismissal of its application with exemplary costs.

The central government in its affidavit had said that before the States Reorganization Commission (SRC) the “language of the people has been one of the criteria, but not the sole criterion for the inclusion of any area, i.e. village, taluka or municipal area, in a state”.

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