Nagaland govt firm on civic polls with women quota amid stiff opposition
Advisor to Urban Development and Municipal Affairs, Zhaleo Rio stated that the state government would conduct the Urban Local Body (ULB) election as notified.

Kohima: Despite stiff opposition from Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) and tribal hohos, the Nagaland government reaffirmed its decision to conduct the general elections in three municipal councils and 36 town councils with 33% reservation for women.

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Speaking to journalists after an hour-long deliberation of all elected members at the State Assembly Secretariat in Kohima on Tuesday, Advisor to Urban Development and Municipal Affairs, Zhaleo Rio informed that the state government would conduct the Urban Local Body (ULB) election as notified. 

The state government had earlier notified that the general election to the ULBs with 33% seat reservation for women will be held on May 16 as the nomination filing will be from April 3-10.

During the “informal” discussion, Zhaleo said members were informed about the state government’s position. As the concerned department had issued clarifications after several objections, Zhaleo said the Nagaland government stands by the notification.

When asked if a discussion on the matter will be held during the ongoing state Assembly session, the legislator said that Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio may speak on the assembly floor of the house.

Municipalities, town councils demand Act amendment 

Leaders of the municipal councils and town councils also held a crucial consultative meeting at Hotel 2k Kohima. The meeting was jointly convened by the Association of Kohima Municipal Ward Panchayat (AKMWP), All Ward Union Mokokchung Town (AWUMT) and the Dimapur Urban Council Chairman Federation (DUCCF) was attended by 23 Town councils besides the three municipal councils.

President (centre) of the three municipal wards after addressing a press conference 

“We have resolved that the Nagaland Municipal Act 2001 should be according to the reality and practicality of the Naga people before the conduct of the polls,” DUCCF President Zasivikho Zakiesato told journalists after the meeting.

While the state government has clarified the main issue of taxation on land and property about the usage of the words “omit”, “omitted, and “deleted”, he informed that a memorandum requesting the government to use the word “deleted” will be submitted on Wednesday.  

“If the government fails to listen to the voice, the three municipal councils and 36 town councils will not participate in the election,” he added.

In a copy of the draft memorandum obtained by journalists, it said, “The three municipal unions in no way oppose the judgment of any Hon’ble court(s) in regard with the implementation or conduct of election to Urban Local Bodies in Nagaland. However, we are of the view that the government should listen to the voice and views of the people, which is the demand of all the Naga people for a total review of the Nagaland Municipal Act, 2001.”

It urged the government to review/revamp or redraft the Nagaland Municipal Act, 2001, according to its applicability to the living standard(s) of Nagaland, and considering the social, customary and traditional practice of the Nagas before the government conducts the election to ULBs.

As reported earlier, Nagaland will hold the civic body polls after nearly two decades. In 2001, the Nagaland Municipal Act 2001 was passed in the Nagaland Legislative Assembly without the inclusion of 33% women reservation, a mandatory provision in article 243-T Part IX-A. It was later amended in 2006.

The first election under the Municipal and Town Council Act was conducted in 2004 across the state without 33% women reservation, except in Mokokchung town, which objected on grounds that unless the provision for taxation of land and building were omitted/deleted from the Act, the town would not allow the municipal election.

In 2017, the state witnessed violent protests against ULB elections which provided 33% reservation for women leading to the death of two persons and several others injured on the eve of the poll.

Government clarification of the Act:

Following the announcement of the civic polls, the state government drew opposition from various corners including the 3 municipal councils, Angami Public Organization (APO), Ao Senden, Chakhesang Public Organization (CPO), Rengma Hoho, and town councils from different districts demanding for amendment of certain sections of the Nagaland Municipal Act dealing with the tax on land and buildings, and that it infringes Art 371 A.

The government clarified that the Supreme Court in the CA case no. 3607/2016 PUCL Vs the State of Nagaland, after a series of hearings, has directed that ULB elections be held in Nagaland without any further delay per the 74th Amendment of the Constitution that stipulates 33% reservation for women in ULBs.

It said that the state authorities are “duty bound” to conduct ULB elections as per the notified schedule.

On the issue of tax on land and building, it clarified that the provisions relating to it have already been removed from Nagaland Municipal Act 2001 by the NMA (3rdAmendment) Act 2016 and the amendment of section 120 (1) (a) stated that “All references and operative provisions relating to tax on land and buildings wherever these occur in the Nagaland Municipal Act, 2001 shall be deemed to have been omitted.”

While requests were made for the replacement of the word “Deleted” instead of “Omitted” was made, the government clarified that as per the legal opinion, the words “Omission, Omitted & Deleted” have “no difference but should be read as of the same meaning and character in the context of the amendment issue in question”.

Concerning suggestions of nominating women in ULBs with voting rights instead of 33% women’s reservations of wards, the state government stated SC 22/02/2022 ruling which categorically struck down the submission as “something naturally not acceptable”.

“Reservations for Women Chairpersons; Women’s reservation of Chairpersons of the ULBs is notified as per Section 23B of the Nagaland Municipal Act, 2001, as amended. To bring about fair play, the rotation is based on the Alphabetical order of the ULBs,” the government said. 

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Nagaland Governor appeals for peaceful polls

Nagaland Governor La Ganesan while addressing the state Assembly on Tuesday said that under the directions of the Supreme Court, the State Government is directed to initiate the process for the conduct of the long-overdue Urban Local Bodies elections. 

“These elections, and the constitution of the Bodies as per the provisions of the Constitution and in compliance with the directives of the Supreme Court, are critical for the equitable development, growth, and progress of our cities and towns,” he said. 

In this regard, the governor urged all concerned to come forward and assist in the successful conduct of the elections in the interest of the people and the state.

Also Read |  Nagaland: Southern Angami Body lifts movement ban on Mao Nagas 

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