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HAC and ADC Bill 2021: What does the Speaker say?

IFP Editorial: Another debatable issue has come up as to whether the HAC is acting within its mandate or beyond it. Its mandate was given by Article 371 C and the Manipur Legislative Assembly (Hill Areas Committee) Order, 1972. The question now is whether that mandate also empowers the HAC to amend or expand its own mandate?

ByIFP Bureau

Updated on 1 Dec 2021, 3:26 am

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It seems the Hill Areas Committee (HAC) of the Manipur Legislative Assembly has dug in its heels on the demand for calling a special session of the assembly to consider and pass the legislation Manipur (Hill Area) Autonomous District Council Bill, 2021 recommended by it and the state government is at a loss on how to wriggle out of the vexed situation.

An agreement was signed between the state government and the ATSUM delegation on November 25 in which it was agreed to hold a discussion between HACand the government on the draft ADC Bill, 2021 within five days. After the agreement, members of ATSUM who were arrested by the police were released while the indefinite economic blockade was suspended.

Three ministers representing the hill areas Letpao Haokip, Losi Dikho and Vungzagin Valte were present as witnesses to the negotiations.

Also Read: Manipur Hill Area Committee demands special session to table ADC Bill 2021

In the follow-up, the Additional Chief Secretary in charge of Tribal Affairs and Hills Letkhogin Haokip issued a meeting notice on November 27, 2021 inviting the HAC Members to attend a discussion with legal experts in addition to the members of the new committee constituted by the Government.

While terming the meeting notice as "ultra vires" the HAC demanded a special session of the Manipur assembly to table the pending Manipur (Hill Area) Autonomous District Council Bill, 2021.

The HAC communique signed by its chairman K Leishiyo said that the meeting notice directly contradicts the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Manipur Legislative Assembly and breaks all conventions as followed by the legislature since the creation of the state in 1972. The said communique was issued after an emergency meeting of HAC on Monday, in which resolutions were passed.

Also Read: Absence of a legal position

The HAC resolution asserts that as mandated by the Presidential order of June 20, 1972 and as unanimously decided by the Committee on August 16, 2021, the Hill Areas (Autonomous District Council Bill, 2021) as adopted was recommended for introduction in Manipur Legislative Assembly by the state government under Para 4, Function of the Hill Areas Committee.

It also quotes the sub-Para 3 which says, “The Hill Areas Committee shall have the right to consider and pass resolutions recommending to the government of the state any legislation or executive action affecting the hill areas with respect to any scheduled matter, so the legislation or the executive action relates to the general question of policy and the legislation or the execution action is in conformity with the overall financial provisions for the Hill Areas made in the annual budget or contemplated in the plans of the state".

We had earlier suggested that either the Law Secretary or the Advocate General 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.

Also Read: Manipur economic blockade suspended; arrested student leaders released

Veteran politician Okram Joy had opined 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.

Another debatable issue has come up as to whether the HAC is acting within its mandate or beyond it. Its mandate was given by Article 371 C and the Manipur Legislative Assembly (Hill Areas Committee) Order, 1972. The question now is whether that mandate also empowers the HAC to amend or expand its own mandate?

Well, the 1972 Presidential Order does give it the power to recommend any legislation with respect to any scheduled matter. But, it does not necessarily mean that, it can amend its own mandate. In the statement of objects and reasons of the proposed bill, it is clearly mentioned that it aims to provide more autonomy to HAC and ADCs with regard to administration and management of the hill areas of Manipur.

Also Read: The politics of economic blockades

Now, it does seem that the Speaker of the Manipur Legislative Assembly should also have a voice in the debate with a ruling of his own as many of the assertions involve the mandate of HAC and parliamentary procedures. After all, HAC is a committee of the state assembly.

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IFP Bureau

IFP Bureau

IMPHAL, Manipur

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