The Municipalities/Urban Local Bodies : Looking beyond our horizon

AM Toshi  Jamir

This article is an attempt  to discuss the above mentioned  subject-matter from an academic angle only. Efforts have been made to collect the scantily available scattered materials and present them for the consumption  of the public in general and educated job seekers in particular.

Before the Indian Constitution (74th Amendment) Act,1992  came into use from 1st June 1993, the Municipal Acts of the States did not have Constitutional guarantee and obligation to safeguard the interest of these local self-governments in the urban areas. The 74th Amendment Act, 1992 was  necessitated to remove these and other  weaknesses that were being faced by the urban local bodies at that point of time.

The study of Urban Local Bodies/Municipalities/Constitution 74th Amendment is also found included within the curriculum of the Universities located in the North Eastern Region of India. This topic also features within the  syllabus of Nagaland Civil Services and Allied Examination. Irrespective of belonging to any stream(Science,Arts,Commerce,Engineering ,etc); every educated job-seeker is expected to be well conversant with this while preparing  to crack the competitive examination(s).

The Indian Constitution (Seventy-Fourth Amendment) Act,1992, which came into force on the 1st day of June, 1993 and deals with the Urban Local Bodies  was added as Part IX-A in the Constitution immediately after Part-IX (The Panchayat) . The Panchayat deals with self-government bodies in the rural areas. Part IX-A (ULB) contains eighteen Articles (243-P to 243-ZG), wherein  the following topics are dealt with,namely,Constitution of Municipalities; Composition of Municipalities; Constitution and composition of Ward Committees; Reservation of Seats; Five years duration of Municipalities; Disqualification for Membership; Powers, authority, responsibilities of Municipalities; Power to impose taxes by, and funds of Municipalities; Finance Commission; Audit of accounts of Municipalities; Committee for District Planning; Committee for Metropolitan Planning, etc.

The Constitution 74th Amendment Act provides  the following types of Urban Local Bodies ,namely, (i).a Nagar Panchayat (by whatever name called for an area undergoing transition from rural to urban area); (ii).Municipal Council  for smaller urban area; and (iii).Municipal Corporation for larger urban area. In  the case of Nagaland, the present nomenclatures are  Municipal Council  and  Town Council .

To implement the 74th Constitutional Amendment (Municipalities), the North Eastern States had also passed their respective Municipal Acts spreading over different years. Even before the Constitution (Seventy-Fourth Amendment) Act,1992 came into being, two sister States in this region were already having their respective Municipal Act,namely, The Assam Municipal Act,1956 (with124 page-contents); and The Meghalaya Municipal Act,1973(113 pages).In the following years,other remaining States in this region also made their respective principal Municipal Acts as mentioned below: Tripura, in 1994 (122pages); Manipur, in 1994 (77pages); Nagaland ,in 2001 (235 pages);Arunachal Pradesh, in 2007(119 pages), Mizoram, in 2007 (174 pages).

In the matter of the adoption of Article 243-T, clauses (1),(2),(3),etc(regarding One-Third seats reservation for women in ULB, etc. by the States in North Eastern Region),the States of Manipur and Tripura could include it in theirrespective principal Acts (main Act)which were enacted  in 1994. It appears that the remaining five States had to amend their respective principal Acts so as to incorporate the provisions relating to One-Third women reservation,etc. The names of States along with the years of their incorporation of  reservation , etc, are given below: Assam in 1994; Nagaland in 2006; Mizoram in 2007;Arunachal Pradesh in 2009; and Meghalaya in 2010. More amendments have been enacted during the recent past in these States also. It will be of great use to know exactly as to what extent these amended Acts (especially pertaining to Women Reservation) are currently under application  in these States. To get such practical informations, field-researches may be conducted.

NAGALAND MUNICIPAL ACT, 2001: To give effect to the 74th Constitutional Amendment, The Nagaland Municipal Act,2001 was enacted and published in the Nagaland Gazette Extraordinary dated 18th October 2001. Thereafter, Nagaland Municipal (First Amendment) Act,2006, was published in the Nagaland Gazette Extraordinary on 13.09.2006. Amongst other changes, this amendment incorporated the clauses (1) to (3) of Article 243-T of the Constitution (Reservation of One-Third  seats in Municipalities for women,etc). The Nagaland Municipal(Third Amendment) Act,2016,was also enacted and published in the Nagaland Gazette Extraordinary on 29th December 2016. Besides other changes , this amendment OMITTED the provisions relating to “tax on lands and buildings”and also OMITTED  the words”Scheduled Castes”).Note: The “tax on land and building: was originally found mentioned in the N.M. Act, 2001; and the words “Scheduled Castes” was earlier found included in the N.M. (First Amendment)Act,2006.

Soon after the Nagaland Municipal Act,2001 came into force, it  was confronted with many related problems. Though much efforts were made by the State Government from time to time to sort out the issues ,and to make the provisions of the Act operational, yet it was often frustrated……... The unresolved Women Reservation matter was the most important contributory factor towards this impasse.Thus the Act could survive only for about twenty-two years. The Nagaland Municipal Act, 2001 was finally REPEALED INTO TO, through the Nagaland Municipal Act(Repeal Act 2023) vide NO. LAW/BILL/53/2016 dated Kohima the 29th March 2023. In  support of its decision to Repeal the Act, the State Government,(amongst other reasons) opined that, ‘’The implementation of the Act has been fraught with much controversies due to the public perception that the Act runs contrary to the spirit of Article 371(A).’’ 

Following the Repeal of the NMA 2001, the Urban Local Bodies election in 3(three) Municipal Councils and 36(thirty-six) Town Councils, which was earlier Notified on 9.3.2023, to be held on 16.05.2023 was subsequently “cancelled” till further orders vide  NOTIFICATION NO.SEC/MTC ELE-7/2022-23/365, Dated Kohima the 30th March 2023.

It was also decided by the Nagaland State Government that “till such a time a new Act is enacted,  the Administrators of the ULBs are to continue to function as may be notified by the Government from time to time.”

The Supreme Court of India came into the scene once again and on 5.4.2023,“Stayed” the “Election cancellation programme”Order issued by the Nagaland State Election Commission on 30.03.2023.

Further, on 18.05.2023, the Supreme Court of India gave its ruling asking the Centre/Union Government  to follow the “Law of the Land” and also to “find a Solution” in respect of Nagaland Municipal Act. Note: one has to keep tract of further development hereinafter on this issue.

The Text of the Article 243-T,clause (1),(2),and (3), of the Indian Constitution,which was adopted by Nagaland State and is found mentioned in the erstwhile Nagaland Municipal (First Amendment) Act,2006, is reproduced below specially in view of its academic importance.

“243-T: RESERVATION OF SEATS- (1).Seats shall be reserved for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes in every Municipality and the number of seats so reserved shall bear, as nearly as may be the same proportion to the total number of seats to be filled by direct election in that Municipality as the population of the Scheduled Castes in the Municipal area or of the Scheduled Tribes in the Municipal area  bears to the total population of that area and such seats may be allotted by rotation to different constituencies in a Municipality.

(2).Not less than One-Third of the total number of seats reserved under clause(1) shall be reserved for women belonging to the Scheduled Castes or, as the case may be, the Scheduled Tribes.

(3).Not less than one-third (including the number of seats reserved for women belonging to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes) of the total number of seats to be filled by direct election in every Municipality shall be reserved for women and such seats may be allotted by rotation to different constituencies in a Municipality.’’

As on 21.12.2022, there were 39 (thirty-nine)Government recognized Urban Local Bodies in Nagaland ( 3 Municipal Councils and 36 Town Councils) and it appears that the number of Council remained the same till to-date. Considering their importance,the  names of the Councils along with the number of Wards against each Council are provided  below:

(Serial Number-i). Kohima MC (19 Wards); (ii). Mokokchung MC (18); (iii). Dimapur MC (23) ; (iv).Chiephobozou TC (9); (v). Tseminyu TC (9); (vi).East Dimapur TC (11); (vii).Chumoukedima TC (11); (viii). Niuland TC (9); (ix). Medziphema TC (9); (x). Tuli TC (9); (xi) Changtongya TC (11); (xii). Mangkolemba TC (9); (xiii). Peren TC (9); (xiv). Jalukie TC (9); (xv). Tening TC (9); (xvi). Wokha TC (15); (xvii). Bhandari TC (9); (xviii).Zunheboto TC (13); (xix). Satakha TC (9); (xx). Atoizu TC (9); (xxi). Aghunato TC (9); (xxii). Longleng TC (11); (xxiii). Tamlu TC (9); (xxiv). Mon TC (11); (xxv). Naginimora TC (9); (xxvi).Aboi TC (9); (xxvii). Tizit TC (9); (xxviii). Tobu TC (9); (xxix). Tuensang TC (xxx). Longkhim TC (9); (xxxi). Kiphire TC (11); (xxxii). Seyochung TC (9); (xxxiii). Pungro TC (9); (xxxiv). Phek TC; (xxxv). Pfutsero TC (11); (xxxvi).Meluri TC (9); (xxxvii). Chozuba TC (9); (xxxviii). Shamator TC (11); and (xxxix). Noklak TC (9). Basing on the above mentioned statements, there are altogether 418 Wards spread over 39 Urban Local Bodies.

The Government of Nagaland adopted the simple terminology, namely,“ ONE-THIRD” (one seat out of every three seats) from the Constitution of India and introduced it into the Nagaland Municipal Act. Though,the terms “ONE-THIRD” and “33 PERCENT” may be synonymous (same), yet the recent indiscriminate/freely use of the complex and highly toned  words like ”33 PERCENT”(33 seats out of every 100 seats)may sometimes be misunderstood by the beholders and hence misleading (specially in the present  context of Nagaland State).The use of the simple official term “ONE-THIRD” seats reservation (one seat is reserved for women out of every three seats) should have been preferred.

As per the formula of “ONE-THIRD” Reservation of seats for women, the Dimapur Municipal Council having 23 seats (highest seats amongst the 39 ULBs in Nagaland) was to reserve 8 seats for women and keep 15 seats unreserved. Similarly,  a ULB with the lowest number of seats in Nagaland is 9. Herein, 3 seats were supposed to be reserved for women and 6 seats kept unreserved.

Conclusion: Going by the present trend, it appears that the Repeal of the Nagaland Municipal Act,2001 is not a permanent arrangement. Sooner or later, an acceptable fresh Municipal Act is desired. WHERE DO  WE GO FROM HERE ?

Note: Errors & Omissions Expected.