Kohima: Nagaland conformed to the Supreme Court ruling on 33% reservation for women with the passing of the Nagaland Municipal Bill 2023 in the state legislative Assembly on Thursday, a day ahead of the Apex Court’s next sitting.
Addressing a press conference after the one-day emergent session, minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Power, KG Kenye revealed the emergency session was intentionally convened ahead of the next SC hearing.
“Change of guard in the court matters and it can bring about an unexpected opinion of the authorities, so it is always better that familiar hands dispose our case,” he said.
The SC on February 22 last year gave a categorical order directing the State of Nagaland to hold elections to the ULBs within 6 (six) weeks. Later in July, the SC directed the State Government to complete the ULB election process by January 2023, and subsequently, the state Cabinet in January decided to hold elections to the ULBs after the completion of the election process to the 14th NLA.
The SC on 13th February 2023, directed the State Government to hold elections to the ULBs at the earliest possible. Accordingly, on 9th March, the State Election Commission issued notification for holding election to the ULBs in Nagaland with the date of poll scheduled on 16th May.
With continued opposition by tribal bodies and civil society organisations to the holding of ULB election, and also the lingering feeling among a wide cross section of the people that the provisions of the Nagaland Municipal Act, 2001 were in contravention of Article 371 A, the 60-member legislature unanimously repealed the Nagaland Municipal Act 2001 in toto in March and decided to enact a new Nagaland Municipal Act.
The matter on ULBs in the State continued to be heard in the SC with strong displeasure to the repealing of the Nagaland Municipal Act 2001 and maintained that the constitutional scheme of having 1/3rd reservation of seats in Municipalities for women and holding election for the constitution of the urban local bodies can’t be violated.
The Supreme Court stated in clear terms that providing for 1/3rd representation to women do not impinge on Article 371 A in any manner, and that the personal laws of Nagaland and its special status under Article371A (1) of the Constitution were not being touched in any manner by provision for women reservation in ULBs.
During the presser, Kenye said that the old municipal act, in the context of election to the municipal bodies, has not gone down well with the people, leading to loss of life, destruction of treasured public properties and even to the extent of a government collapsing.
“We found a way to out to resolve this, it dawned on the wisdom of the present leadership that we have the means, the powers vested in this House ever since the inception of our state through the article 371 (A) as how it has given birth to the state of Nagaland and remains to be a guarantee by the government of India through its constitution,” Kenye said.
The Act, he observed, was tried and tested and the government has come out successfully by repealing a central act and enacted the state’s own municipal Act.
In the process of formulating the enactment of the new Bill, he said that old documents revealed that a committee was constituted to study the implementation of Central laws in the state. He informed that the government would revive the committee to study Central laws that can be implemented in the state without infringing the customary laws of the Naga society.
Despite several consultations with various stakeholders, Kenye said that the state government is not subjected to anybody’s approval or permission. Such consultations he said were done to take onboard the people. In addition, he said that what happened during the last attempt to conduct the municipal elections should never be repeated.
He informed that the state election commissioner will notify the electoral process for the municipal elections in due course and that the government will take time to conduct a delimitation exercise to divide the rural and urban areas, as this is a sensitive matter.
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When asked if women were consulted during the drafting of the new bill, the minister said that discussions with women’s organizations were assumed to have taken place before the apex tribal bodies entered into talks at the state level meeting.
On the issue of taxation, Kenye said that the public must pay other revenues, such as service and maintenance charges, to upkeep the town and municipalities, as the new Act excludes the tax on immovable land and buildings.
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