Absence of a legal position
IFP Editorial: Instead of beating about the bush the chief minister and his government needs to come clear of the threats posed by the proposed ADC bill to the territorial integrity of the state.
Updated on 26 Nov 2021, 7:23 pm
Representational Image (PHOTO: IFP)
We had earlier asked. What if the state legislature had the ability to amend the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Council Act, 1972 and what stand it would have taken with regard to the proposal? Everyone knows that the proposed amendment of the ADC Act is a deliberate move on the geo-political chessboard orchestrated by NSCN (I-M) to time with the state assembly elections and its grand design of shaking the foundations of Manipur’s territorial integrity by usurping more political space in Manipur, as it faces disappointment in Nagaland state. As it desperately seeks to gain more political clout, it has somehow succeeded in taking along many of the tribal MLAs besides the Nagas. And, who would dare to remain silent to the call for more power to the ADCs except to earn the ire of hill based CSOs. The hill MLAs under the banner of Hill Areas Committee (HAC) has been continuing with its campaign for the bill which seeks more power for the ADCs. So, instead of beating about the bush the chief minister and his government needs to come clear of the threats posed by the proposed bill to the territorial integrity of the state. Well, that is the political part which has to be dealt with after consultation with all the stakeholders including the political parties.
Time and again, the chief minister had clarified that the power to repeal or amend the District Council Act vest not with the state legislature but with the Parliament, as it is an Act passed by the parliament in 1971. The All Tribal Students Union Manipur (ATSUM) had called the ‘bluff’ by pointing out that the Manipur legislative assembly had repealed the ‘Manipur (Hill Areas) Autonomous District Councils Act 1971’ by passing the ‘Manipur (Hill Areas) Autonomous District Councils Act, 2000’ in the year 2000. While the debate on whether the Act could be amended or repealed by the state assembly is still open to interpretation, it must be clear to one and all that the act which now governs the functioning of the District Councils in the hill districts of Manipur is known by the name ‘Manipur (Hill Areas) District Councils (Third Amendment) Act, 2008’ and the term ‘Autonomous’ had been weeded out. If one goes back in history, the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Councils Act, 1971 came to be in force in the state of Manipur with necessary adaptations under the Manipur (Adaptation of Laws) Order, 1972. There were attempts to either amend certain provisions of the Act and also to incorporate the term ‘autonomous’ within the ambit of the Act in the years 1975, 2000 and 2006. But, it was either not brought in force or was withdrawn and ultimately the ‘Manipur (Hill Areas) District Councils (Third Amendment) Act, 2008’ was brought in to consolidate and rationalise the law for establishment of district councils in the hill areas of Manipur. In the end, the term ‘autonomous’ was supposed to be not there at all in the District Councils Act.
Now, it is the turn of either the Law Secretary or the Advocate General of the state government or the Secretary of the Manipur Legislative Assembly to give their official legal position on whether the state assembly is empowered to amend or repeal the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Councils Act, 1971 or to the legality of the amendments made in the past, so as to clear the air in the minds of the general public. One may also take note of the invaluable input of the veteran politician Okram Joy regarding the proposed ADC bill referred by the Hill Areas Committee. Joy is one politician who is well versed in parliamentary practices and procedures and his word or opinion is not to be taken lightly, wherever be his political allegiance. Simply put, he has said that the Hill Areas Committee is supposed to deliberate on matters referred to it by the Manipur Legislative Assembly and give its opinion or recommendations, and certainly not the other way around. Well, one could say that his opinion is more of a technical issue and of proper procedures. But then, one has to follow the procedures or act according to the law and not find ways and means to circumvent it.