On July 29, 2022, the Supreme Court issued directions to the Nagaland State Election Commission to complete the Urban Local Bodies (ULB) elections and declare results for the same by the end of January 2023.
The order by Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and MM Sundresh came in relation to a civil appeal filed by the People Union For Civil Liberties (PUCL) and others against the State of Nagaland in the country’s top court. The appeal was filed challenging the Nagaland Legislative Assembly's September 22, 2021 resolution exempting operation of Part IXA of the Constitution of India, which mandates 33% reservation for women, in Municipalities and Town Councils of the State.
At the time, the counsel appearing for the Nagaland State Election Commission reportedly informed the Bench that the electoral roll would be published on November 24, and “the process for conducting elections will go up to January 25 because there is a 10 day holiday period in between. The counsel added that as such the process will begin after January 25, 2023.”
Prior to the SC directive, the State Cabinet, at its meeting on March 17, decided to effect a total revision of the electoral roll (e-roll) before conducting elections to Urban Local Bodies (ULBs). Accordingly, the State Election Commissioner notified the schedule for e-roll revision starting with house to house enumeration from August 3 to September 24, 2022 and concluding with the final publication of e-roll on November 24, 2022.
Then on August 20, 2022, the State Cabinet during a meeting decided that it would appeal to the Supreme Court to grant additional time for the conduct of the ULB elections, citing various reasons including December and January being a festive season for Nagaland.
Notably, it also mentioned a memorandum from three municipal councils demanding amendment of the Nagaland Municipal Act 2001, as one of the reasons for seeking an extension. The memo had claimed that the Act infringes upon Article 371(A) of the Constitution of India which gives special rights to the people of Nagaland.
It was also said that the state government would appeal for more time so that it can ‘take everyone into confidence to avoid the 2017 situation,’ and as of date, whether the SC accepted the appeal and allotted more time for the completion of the ULB election progress has not been announced in the public domain.
Meanwhile, while taking into consideration the concerns of the state government, it is pertinent to note that the ULB elections have been overdue for more than a decade. In such a scenario, municipal bodies have been facing functional disintegration and inadequate financial resources among other problems while the citizenry are deprived of access to basic services and amenities.
The SC’s July 29 order had listed the matter for compliance in the second week of February 2023, however, with the State Assembly Elections been scheduled for February 27, the ULB elections would obviously have to be delayed.
Nevertheless, as the Senior Counsel for the State of Nagaland reportedly informed the SC that “there is now no impediment to holding of the elections providing for reservation for women,” during a hearing on April 11, 2021, it is hoped that the first order of business for the next State Government would be the conduct of the much anticipated ULB elections.
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