Wednesday, August 10, 2022

ULB Polls a challenge

After the Supreme Court issued a directive on July 29 to the government of Nagaland to complete the elections of the local bodies and declare the results by the end of January, 2023 the ball it has placed the ball in the state government’s court as further delay would invite strong legal repercussion. The order came in relation to a civil appeal filed by the People Union For Civil Liberties (PUCL) and others against the State of Nagaland. The appeal was filed challenging the Nagaland Legislative Assembly’s September 22, 2021 resolution exempting operation of Part IXA(The Municipalities) of the Constitution of India, which mandates 33% reservation for women, in Municipalities and Town Councils of the State. A Special Leave Petition(SLP) was earlier filed by NMA representatives but after they withdrew , PUCL made itself a party in the case. The main objection against reservation from tribe organisation was that it infringed upon traditional and customary laws under Article 371A. However, the litigant argued that reservations do not infringe upon Article 371(A) of the Constitution. The rationale was that Article 371 (A) related to laws made in the Parliament while the reservations had been effected through a Constitutional amendment. Many leaders from the NMA, as well as other tribal womens’ groups in Nagaland, formed the Joint Action Committee on Women Reservation (JACWR) in the same year to press for the issue. Nagaland passed the Nagaland Municipal Act in 2001 with regard to urban local bodies(municipal and town councils) but without reservation clause. Election to ULBs were held in 2004 under the Nagaland Municipal Act 2001 without 33% reservation. Before the next scheduled ULB election in 2009, the issue got embroiled in court between the women group and state government, when the former demanded implementation of 33% reservation. Under pressure, the government in 2006 then amended the Nagaland Municipal Act 2001 by inserting Section 23A to the Nagaland Municipal Act which made Part IX A operative. Holding of elections to the ULBs under Article 243T has been made mandatory as per the 74th Amendment. Under this amendment, the discretion of the state Government has been drastically curtailed in the sense that it has constitutional obligations to set up the Municipalities as per article 243T. However 33% reservation has been contested by various tribal organisations which came together under the umbrella of Joint Co-ordination Committee(JCC). JCC opposed the reservation on the ground that it was in conflict with Article 371A which provides special protection to Nagas of Nagaland from any law passed by parliament. The confusion and lack of clarity on the part of the state government was exposed when it first passed a resolution on September 22,2012 to make Article IXA operative in the Municipal Act 2001. Then in a hurriedly convened one-day sitting on November 24,2016, the government revoked the September 22,2012 resolution. Then again on December 15,2017 the Nagaland Legislative Assembly again passed another the resolution revoking the November 24,2016 resolution that had made Article 243T of Part IXA inoperative. Polls were announced but tribal organisations under JCC vehemently opposed it and ultimately the government in 2017 withdrew the notification till the matter was resolved. Since the 74th amendment makes the 33% reservation mandatory and the state government has a challenging task not because it has been asked to conduct polls in the festival and wedding season on December –January but since the Amendment itself is not sacrosanct.

Most Read