Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio giving his concluding remarks on the discussion on the 2023-24 budget during the Nagaland Legislative Assembly session on March 28. (DIPR Photo)
Moves for new law governing ULBs
Kohima | March 28
The Nagaland Legislative Assembly, on March 28, passed a resolution for repealing the contentious – as perceived by the tribal bodies – Nagaland Municipal Act 2001 and to enact a new law in its place. The matter was put up for discussion as the Nagaland Municipal Act 2001 (Repeal Bill, 2023), as a matter of “urgent public importance,” and passed by the House unanimously.
In the resolution, the House noted what was described as “stiff voices of opposition to the Urban Local Bodies Elections under the Nagaland Municipal Act, 2001 by the Tribal Bodies, Civil Society Organisation and every section of the society.” According to it, the implementation of the Nagaland Municipal Act 2001 has been fraught with controversy “due to the public perception that the Act runs contrary to the spirit of Article 371-A.”
It then went on to explain the historical background. “Unanimous Resolutions were passed by this House in the year 2012 exempting Nagaland from the provisions of Part IX A of the Constitution of India pertaining to 33% reservation for women in Municipalities and Town Councils. The said resolution, however, was revoked by another resolution in the year 2016 by this House,” stated the government resolution, which was moved for introduction in the House.
It set the stage for notifying ULB elections in December 2016, which was scheduled on February 1, 2017. It was however greeted by violent agitations, resulting in two deaths, by various tribal bodies/hohos and organisation and boycotting of the government machinery. “Faced with a delicate law and order situation,” it said that the government was compelled to cancel the ULB elections that time.
Four years later, on March 9, 2022, in a State Level Consultative Meeting with the various tribal bodies and other organisation a resolution was adopted to conduct the ULB elections as per the 74th Amendment Act of the Constitution of India. Subsequently, it said that as the state government geared up to conduct the elections as resolved, various tribal bodies and other organisation demanded the overhauling of the Nagaland Municipal Act 2001 “in consonance with the provisions of Article 371-A.” Pending the implementation of the demand, the organisations refused to participate in the elections to the ULBs, it said.
As explained in resolution, the state government was clearly faced with a catch-22— facing stiff opposition to holding the elections and a Supreme Court directive to go ahead with the elections.
“The Government in the meanwhile received reports about the law and order situation which could worsen with the passage of time in the event the elections are held without making the demanded changes,” it said
“Accordingly, the Cabinet met on two occasions to resolve the impasse,” it said, while stating that it became clear that there will not be any participation in the elections.
It added, “The defining trait of law is its enforceability. If people are not willing to come forward to participate in the elections, they cannot be compelled to do so. In these circumstances, the Cabinet resolved to refer the matter to the Legislative Assembly for discussion.”
While stating that elections cannot be conducted in such a circumstance, it said that the House unanimously resolved to take up the repeal of the Nagaland Municipal Act 2001 “in toto with immediate effect.” It also resolved to enact a new law “expeditiously” to govern the ULBs, which the House said, “will take into consideration once and for all the grievances of all the interested parties so that the elections could be conducted in accordance to law.”
The Repeal Bill was moved by the Chief Minister, Neiphiu Rio. Minister for Parliamentary Affairs and Power KG Kenye, supported by MLA Namri Nchang and seconded by Advisor Kropol Vitsu, initiated the discussion on matters of urgent public importance under Rule 50 pertaining to the ULB issue. All the political parties including Independent MLAs of the 14th House of the Nagaland Legislative Assembly supported the resolution.
Earlier, KN Balgopal, Advocate-General gave a brief explanation on the Nagaland Municipal (Amendment) Act and the views of the Supreme Court.