The Supreme Court hearing started on the long pending issue of Belagavi between Maharashtra and Karnataka.
What is the dispute?
The dispute between Maharashtra and Karnataka over Belgaum and other border areas is a longstanding issue between the two states.
Origin of the dispute –
- The erstwhile Bombay Presidency, a multilingual province, included the present-day Karnataka districts of Bijapur, Belgaum, Dharwar and Uttara-Kannada (previously North Kanara).
- The Belagavi/Belgaum region at the border of Maharashtra and Karnataka comprises both Kannada and Marathi speakers.
- In 1948, the Belgaum municipality requested that the district, having a predominantly Marathi-speaking population, be incorporated into the proposed Maharashtra state.
- However, the States Reorganisation Act of 1956, which divided states on linguistic and administrative lines, made Belgaum a part of the then Mysore State (which was renamed Karnataka in 1973).
- The area has been under dispute since then.
- The Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti, formed in 1948, has been fighting for a merger of 800-odd villages in Karnataka with Maharashtra.
- From 2006, Karnataka started holding the winter session of the Legislature in Belagavi, building a massive Secretariat building in the district headquarters on the lines of the Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru to reassert its claim.
Mahajan Commission –
- In 1966, at Maharashtra’s insistence, then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi established a one-man commission led by Mehr Chand Mahajan, third Chief Justice of India.
- The Commission, which submitted its report in 1967, recommended that 264 villages be transferred to Maharashtra and that Belgaum and 247 villages remain with Karnataka.
- The Commission also additionally stated that Sholapur in Maharashtra and Kasaragode, which is in Kerala, be given to Karnataka.
Four-member committee –
In 1960, a four-member committee was formed by both States, but it could not arrive at a consensus and representatives submitted reports to their respective governments.
Later developments –
- Maharashtra continues to claim over 814 villages along the border, as well as Belgaum city, which are currently part of Karnataka. Successive governments in Maharashtra have demanded their inclusion within the state– a claim that Karnataka contests.
- In 2004, the Maharashtra government moved the Supreme Court for a settlement of the border dispute under Article 131(b) of the Constitution, demanding 814 villages from Karnataka on the basis of the theory of village being the unit of calculation, contiguity and enumerating linguistic population in each village. The case is pending in the apex court.