In the backdrop of the Nagaland government notifying elections to urban local bodies in the state with 33% reservation of seats for women on March 9, three urban organisations called for amendment of certain provisions of the Nagaland Municipal Act, 2001. They warned that unless the government amends the Act, they will not allow or participate in the civic body elections scheduled to be held on May 16.
The Association of Kohima Municipal Ward Panchayat, All Ward Union Mokokchung Town and Dimapur Urban Council Chairmen Federation demanded amendment/review of the Act with specific references to certain provisions and sections that they say infringe upon Article 371 (A) of the Constitution of India.
In a representation to chief minister Neiphiu Rio, the three organisations demanded that Section 120 (1) (a) of the Act that refers to “tax on land and building” and those provisions relating to ownership of land and building be deleted. They said the Naga people are absolute owners of their land and that the protections under Article 371 (A ) cover the entire state of Nagaland without any classification on rural and urban areas.
They observed that the 3rd amendment of the Nagaland Municipal Act, 2001 in 2016 with regard to “tax on land and building” as mentioned in Section 120(4) & (5), Section 121 (1) (a), Section 143, 144, 145 and 182 (d) appears to have been quoted with the word ‘omission’ or ‘omitted.’
Saying that the urban local bodies termed this as ambiguous and a ‘cryptic proposition’, they demanded that the word ‘omission’ and ‘omitted’ be replaced with the word ‘deleted’.
The three organisations also called for formulation of a “policy for women nominees” instead of the 33% reservation of seats for women in urban local bodies.
They reminded that Article 371 (A) provides that no Act of Parliament would apply unless the Nagaland Legislative Assembly by resolution decides in respect of Naga customary law and procedures, adding the “Naga customary law does not allow women to equally participate in the political and socio-economic decision making”.
They recalled how reservation of 33% seats for women in the municipal elections in 2017 saw violent protests by various tribal bodies and organisations.
The organisations wanted that the government activate the committee constituted in 2017 to amend/review the Act with specific reference to the “tax on land and building” and the “33% reservation of women”. If the Act is not rectified, this would set a precedent which will be detrimental to the rights of the Naga people as enshrined in the Indian Constitution, they said.
“For the Nagas, Article 371 (A) is related to both territory and the people; for Nagas the land and all resources belong to the people. All resources include people and women and accordingly, a law deciding on the political rights of the Naga women rest with the people,” the representation added.
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