Delay in Nagaland Civic Polls

GS Paper II (Governance):

It highlights the concept of special provisions for certain states and the rationale behind them.

Essay Paper:

Article 371A can be a relevant point for essays related to federalism, special rights for indigenous communities, or the history of the Naga Hills.

Why in News ?

On April 30, Nagaland’s State Election Commissioner T.J. Longkumer notified the schedule of elections to the State’s Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) across three municipal councils.

The notification came four days after the Neiphiu Rio-led State Cabinet paved the way for holding civic polls stalled for 20 years because of opposition to the reservation of 33% of the wards reserved for women.

Why are civic polls in focus ?

Until the recent notification, Nagaland has been the only State where 33% of the seats or wards in the ULBs have not been reserved for women as mandated by clause IV of the 74th Amendment to the Constitution of India because of opposition from the Naga hohos (traditional apex tribal bodies) who argued that such a quota would violate the special provisions granted by Article 371A of the Constitution to Nagaland.

The story so far

The first and only civic body election in Nagaland was held in 2004 without any reservation of seats for women. The State government amended the 2001 Municipal Act in 2006 to include 33% reservation for women in line with the 74th Amendment.

This triggered widespread opposition forcing the government to indefinitely postpone the ULB polls in 2009. Efforts to hold the elections in March 2012 met with strong protests and in September 2012, the State Assembly passed a resolution to exempt Nagaland from Article 243T of the Constitution which is related to the reservation for women.

This resolution was revoked in November 2016 and elections to the civic bodies with 33% reservation were notified a month later. The notification led to widespread mayhem in which two people were killed in large-scale violence and arson.

This made the government declare the process to conduct election null and void in February 2017. In a special session in November 2023, the Assembly unanimously passed an amended Municipal Bill that retained the 33% quota to pave the way for the ULB polls.

Is there still any opposition?

The apex tribal bodies and village chiefs are said to have, by and large, accepted the provisions of the amended Municipal Act.

However, the Eastern Nagaland People’s Organization (ENPO) representing the tribes inhabiting six eastern districts of the State, has affirmed its decision not to participate in the ULB polls.

The organization said the decision has nothing to do with the reservation of seats for women but is in continuation of its resolution not to participate in any Central or State election in protest against New Delhi’s failure to create the autonomous Frontier Nagaland Territory.

Article 371A of the Indian Constitution: Special Provisions for Nagaland

Article 371A is a unique provision in the Indian Constitution that grants special rights and privileges to the state of Nagaland.

Background:

The 13th amendment to the Constitution (1962) incorporated Article 371A following the signing of the 16-point agreement between the Government of India and the Naga People’s Convention. This agreement aimed to address Naga grievances and pave the way for the creation of the state of Nagaland.

Provisions:

Internal Administration: Nagaland Legislative Assembly has the power to make laws for regulating the inheritance of property, social practices of the Nagas, and their customary law and procedure.

The Governor’s assent is not required for such laws passed by the state assembly.

Land and Resources: Parliament cannot enact laws regarding the ownership and transfer of land and its resources in Nagaland without the consent of the state legislature. This protects the customary land rights of Naga communities.

Civil and Criminal Justice Administration: Acts of Parliament regarding civil and criminal justice do not apply to Nagaland unless the state assembly adopts them. However, the applicability of the Fundamental Rights enshrined in Part III of the Constitution remains intact.

Imposition of President’s Rule: While President’s Rule can be imposed in Nagaland under Article 356, certain safeguards exist. Special provisions are made for ensuring the participation of representatives of the Naga people in the Council of Ministers formed during such a period.

Significance of Article 371A:

Protection of Naga Identity: The article safeguards the customary laws, social practices, and land rights of the Naga people, fostering a sense of cultural autonomy within the Indian Union.

Unique Federal Arrangement: It exemplifies a flexible approach to federalism, allowing for special considerations based on historical context and regional aspirations.

Challenges and Considerations:

Balance with National Integration: While Article 371A protects Naga identity, it’s crucial to maintain a balance with national integration and ensure uniformity in some essential aspects like fundamental rights.

Development Concerns: The restrictions on land transfer can sometimes impede infrastructural development projects and economic activity. Finding solutions that balance development needs with customary land rights is essential.

 

 

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