By Prof Lal Dena, Manipur University
1.The Manipur (Hill Areas) District Councils Act, 1971:
Following the attainment of statehood in 1972, the Government of Manipur by its own act enforced the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Councils Act, 1971, by constituting 6 autonomous districts in the hill areas of Manipur on 14 February, 1972. The first election of the autonomous district councils was held in May, 1973. Each district council consisted of 18 directly elected members and 2 nominated members. Unlike their counterparts in Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura, everybody is well aware of the fact that no provision under the Sixth Schedule was extended is extended to the Manipur District Councils which can best be described as a bone without flesh. To press the public demand for extension of the provisions under the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of India, the Manipur Hill District Councils had been kept in abeyance since 1978 to 2008.
2. Second Amendment of the District Councils, 2000.
Pending the extension of the provision of the Sixth Schedule, the Advisory Committee on Social Policy (ACSP), 1995 - 1997 had drafted an amendment of the Manipur District Council Bill in the context of the 73rd and 74th Amendment Acts of the Constitution of India. The Hill Areas Committee (HAC) had reexamined the draft bill and on its recommendation, the 7th Manipur Legislative Assembly had passed the Manipur (Hill Areas) Autonomous District Council Bill, 2000 on 25th July, 2000. The most important part of the ACSP recommendation was the inclusion of the legislative power in the list of powers and functions of the District councils. But nothing was done in this regard.
3. The Manipur (Hill Areas) District Councils (Third Amendment) Act, 2008.
The amended act included, among others, the following matters relating to (1) insertion of Additional Deputy Commissioner for Sadar Hill Areas; (2) hIll areas meaning the Fifth Schedule; (3) increase of membership from 18 to 24; (4) term and appointment of a State Election Commission for conducting of the election of members of District Council; (5) filling up of vacant seat; (6) constitution of Executive Committee; (7) removal or resignation of Chairman/Vice Chairman and Executive members; (8) salaries and allowances of Chairman/Vive Chairman, Executive Members and other members; and (9) 26 subjects over which District Councils can function. After this amendment, elections to the District Councils after 20 years of suspension were held in 2009 and the Councils have been functioning under the Third Amended District Councils Act of 2008.
4. The Manipur (Hill Areas) District Councils (Fourth Amendment) Bill, 2011.
A. Short title and commencement.- (1) This Act may be called the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Councils (Fourth Amendment) Act, 2011.
(2) It shall come into force on such date as the State Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, appoint.
B. Amendment of section 23.- In section 23 of the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Councils Act, 1971 (hereinafter referred to as the Principal Act),
i. in the proviso to sub-section (1), for the words “one year”, the words “two years” shall he substituted;
ii. for sub-section (2),the following shall be substituted, namely,-
“(2) If a resolution for the removal of an elected Chairman is passed by not less than two-thirds of the total membership of the Council at a meeting convened in accordance with the provision of sub-section (3), such resolution shall have the effect of removing the Chairman from his office as from the date on which the resolution is so passed and if such resolution is passed by less than two-thirds but not less than one-half of the total membership of the Council, the State Government may, by order in writing, remove, for reasons to be recorded, the Chairman from his office as from such date as may be specified in the order:
Provided that no such resolution shall be brought within two years from the date of election of the Chairman:
Provided further that if the resolution is not passed by not less than two-thirds of the total membership of the Council, no other resolution for the removal of the Chairman shall be allowed to be considered within one year from the date on which such resolution was considered.”;
iii. in sub-section (3), for the words “Deputy Commissioner” and “to him, and he shall preside over the meeting”, the words “State Government” and “to the State Government, and an officer duly authorized by the State Government for this purpose shall preside over the meeting” respectively shall be substitiited.
C. Amendment of section 46.- In section 46 of the Principal Act,
i. in sub-sections (1), (2) and (3), for the words “Deputy Commissioner” wherever they occur, the words “State Government” shall be substituted;
ii. in sub-section (2), for the words “as he may”, the words “as it may” shall be substituted;
iii. in sub-section (3), for the words “to any class or body of persons”, the words “to any class or body or persons” shall be substituted;
iv. sub-section (4) shall be deleted.
D. Amendment of section 47.- In section 47 of the Principal Act,
i. in sub-section (1), for the words “on receipt of a report from the Deputy Commissioner or otherwise”, the words “on receipt of an explanation from the Council” shall be substituted;
ii. in clause (c) of sub-section (2), for the words “Central Government”, the words “State Government” shall be substituted.
5. Hill District Councils VIS-À-VIS Zilla Parishads:
Long before the District Councils are introduced in the hill areas of Manipur, the Government of Manipur had introduced modern panchayat system since 1947. There have been regular elections to the Gram panchayats (equivalent to village authority) and Zilla Parishads at every interval of five years.
(1).There is no reservation of seat for women in the District Councils. Two Chairpersons out of the four Zilla Parishads are women.
(2) The source of income for the District Councils is solely on the state grant. There will be a one-man Finance Commission which will review the financial position of the District Councils. Recommendations or proposals have to pass through two stages compulsorily: the HAC and the State Legislative Assembly. Whereas the Zilla Parishads have perennial sources of income, namely, Consolidated Fund which ensures the inflow of fund both from the state and central government. The establishment of quinquennial finance commission is there to prevent the Zilla Parishads from falling into financial starvation. Such structure is not there for the districts.
(3) The District Planning Committee under Zilla Parishads has to initiate planning from the Gram Panchayats. Wheras the District Councils have to do planning in consultation with the planning department of the state.
(4) Through Manipur Gazette, No.196, 18th September, 1998, a very long list of subjects are delegated to th panchayat institutions. In addition, according to the 73rd and 74th Amendments to Constitution of India, Zilla Parishads are also given those 29 subjects under the 11th Schedule of the Constitution. Compared to the powers and functions of the Zilla Parishads, subjects delegated to District Councils are nothing.
(5) On the whole, while the Democle’s sword of the state power is hanging on the district councils, a liberalization process has been set in motion in the panchayat bodies.
6. Sixth Schedule Districts vis-a-vis Manipur Hill District Councils:
Sl. No. List of under Sixth Schedule District Council Disctrict Councils
Under Sixth Schedules Manipur
1. Constitutional provisions under which Under the provisions of the Sixth Under the provisions of the
Dustrict councils are Established. Schedule to the constitution. Manipur (Hill Areas) District
2. Legislative Power With the prior approval of the Governor,
they have the powers to make laws with
a. Allotment, occupation or use of land for
agricultural and non-agricultural purposes
other than land classed as reserved forests;
b. The management of unclassified forest;
c. The use of canal or water course
for purpose of agriculture;
d. Regulation of jhuming or other forms of
e. Appointment and succession of chief They can recommend to the
or headmen; Governor of Manipur for
f. Inheritance of property; legislation relating to matter
g. Marriage; from (e) to (h)
h. Social reform;
3. Judicial Power They have powers to constitute village They have nvillage
Village councils of courts for trial of suits. authorities are empowered
for trial of small cases/
litigations under the provi.
sions of village Authority
4. Power to assess and collect land They have powers:
Land revenue and to impose taxes. 1. To assess and collect land revenue Does not arise
2. To levy and collect taxes on lands and
buildings and tells on persons, and Does not arise
3. To levy and collect all or any of the following:
a. Taxes on professionals, trades, callings and They have power to levy and
employment collect these taxes.
b. Entry of goods etc.
c. Animals, vehicles and boats:
d. Taxes for maintenance of schools,
dispensaries or roads.
From what been indicated above, the most important features of the Autonomous District Councils under the Sixth Schedule are (a). Legislative power (b). Judiciary power (c). Financial autonomy. Legislative power: It is entitled to make laws, rules and regulations. Judiciary power: It is empowered to establish Appellate Court and try cases. Financial autonomy: It is also given power to prepare its own budget and get adequate fund directly from the Consolidated Fund of India. Only under serious circumstances like constitutional breakdown, law and order problem, corruption or misappropriation of development fund, the state government cannot interfere into the internal affairs of the district administration.
The Cabinet Committee under the Government of Manipur recommended the extension of the Sixth Schedule provision to the District Councils to the Central Government three times already, first on 13rd May,1991, second time on 17thAugust,1992 and the third time on 20th March, 2001 respectively. It is said that the recommendations entailed a rider clause ‘subject to certain local adjustment and amendments”. How can the provision of Sixth Schedule be amended for Manipur only? What is the logic behind the Cabinet decisionto insert this clause? It sounds discriminatory and also communally biased too.
Look at the notification issued by the Commissioner (GAD), Government of Manipur in respect of the warrant of protocol on 6th February, 2010 which put the Chairpersons (Adhakshas) and Vice Chairpersons (Up Adhakshas) of Zilla Parishad in seriel numbers 23 and 24, the Deputy Commissioner in serial number 31 and the Chairman of the District Councils in serial number 33. The status of the Chairman ADC in the hill is far below his counterpart of the Chairman of Zilla Parishads. Even the Deputy Commissioner of the valley district is placed higher than his counterpart in the hills. This is indeed an insult to the tribal people. This caste-biased warrant of protocol should immediately be withdrawn by the Government of Manipur. As of now there are altogether 30 departments under ADC NC Hills. It is high time to take concrete steps for extending the provision of sixth schedule to the ADCs in the hill areas.
Before the situation gets out of control, let ministers and public leaders have dialogue to bring meaningful solution to the problem in the larger interest of the aggrieved tribal people in the hill districts of Manipur.