Views & Reviews
Rationalisation of Dobashis- Much Awaited and Welcome Move
Nagaland is one of the few states in India where the unique customs and traditions have been duly acknowledged; to this effect Article 371A of the Indian Constitution clearly states that ” (ii) Naga customary law and procedure, (iii) administration of civil and criminal justice involving decisions according to Naga customary law” etcetera, shall have no interference by the act of parliament. These are the provisions and essence upon which the state of Nagaland was established and known across the world.
The rule for administration of justice and police in Nagaland 1937, is another guiding principle that governs the state of Nagaland; the second amendment act 1982, (nagaland act no. 4 of 1983) “15A states that the Dobashis henceforth shall try and decide such criminal cases only as they are referred to them by the Deputy Commissioner, Addl. Deputy Commissioner or Assistant to Deputy Commissioner as the case may be”. “23A further states that the Dobashis henceforward shall try and decide such Civil cases only as they are referred to them by the Deputy Commissioner, Addl. Deputy Commissioner or Assistant to Deputy Commissioner as the case may be”. These are the few provisions, among many, how Dobashis perform their duties. Let me put on record that the Dobashis were in existence as early as 1842- it’s a legacy of the British Raj. Accept it or not, the sacrifices made by Dobashis opened the gate of civilisation in Nagaland. The distinctive, indomitable, and sacrificial spirits exhibited by Dobashis in performing duties have led the Dobashis thus far. From the time of the Britishers, the Dobashis were assigned to adjudicate cases of civil and criminal in tune with the customs and traditions of the Nagas. Thus, by the 19th Century, the Dobashis began to run independent Customary Courts in Nagaland, duly acclaimed by visiting Chief Justice of Supreme & High courts of India. However, it is unfortunate and disappointing to see that the provisions laid & accorded, recognising our unique customs and traditions are never put to the test even after attaining 60th years of statehood by successive lawmakers and politicians. It remained as folklore on the pages of the Indian Constitution; not a single letter was extracted from the provisions to ensure safe practices and usage.
Dobashis as the oldest statutory institution in Nagaland has been managing the Courts and adjudicating cases both civil and criminal with all sincerity and commitment as defined in the rules for administration of justice and police in Nagaland (second amendment act 1982). However, the aged-old institution has been sullied by the involvement of politicians, revolutionists, etc. by appointing their candidates to serve their vested ends. It’s a wonder to see even non-indigenous persons being appointed as Dobashis, which is killing the very essence of traditions.
Practically, the Dobashis as the custodian of our customs traditions manage the Customary Courts in Nagaland although not formally constituted by the Government- the rules for administration of justice and police in nagaland(third amendment act 1984 (nagaland act no.1 of 1987) Chapter IVA provides for constitution of customary courts in Nagaland viz. Village courts, subordinate District customary courts, and District customary courts. However, due to the non-constitution (absence) of these courts, there have been instances of legal ramifications while adjudicating cases of civil and criminal even though endorsed by Deputy Commissioner, Addl. Deputy Commissioner, or Assistant to Deputy Commissioner because in reality there are no Customary Courts in Nagaland; although the Commissioner office Nagaland may have designated Customary Courts for all administrative Offices of Nagaland. In light of the above, the call for rationalisation of Dobashis by Hon’ble Chief Minister Nagaland Neiphiu Rio at the 2 day DCs Conference on 1st & 2nd July 2022 at Kohima is a much awaited topic and welcome move.
I urge and appeal to the government of Nagaland to consider the following points while rationalisation of Dobashis is taken up.
1. Qualification for Dobashis- to have mandatory graduate degree having experience in the field of customs and traditions.
2. Non-indigenous, bastard, fugitive, criminal, and persons married to sisters should be debarred entry into Dobashis service.
3. The criteria for appointment to Dobashis be made on a merit basis and no political or outside elements ruin the age-old institution.
4. A voluntary retirement scheme may be introduced for persons with permanent sickness and non-performing Dobashis.
5. Physical fitness, efficiency and obedience may be given due emphasis for regularisation of in-service casual employees.
6. Perks and wages may be looked into accordingly. It’s high time we wake up from our slumber, and look back to where we came from, and what history holds for us, and make use of the provisions the Government of India has accorded us for a better and glorious Nagaland.
R Kemerio Yanthan
Former Gen. Secy. ANDBA