Sunday, June 4, 2023

Nagaland ULB issue: SC says law must be followed; asks Centre to find solution

The law of the land must be followed, the Supreme Court said on Thursday while expressing displeasure over the Nagaland assembly passing a resolution to repeal the municipal act and resolving not to hold elections to the urban local bodies.
The apex court observed that it respects the local sentiments but asserted authorities cannot let the law of the land not prevail especially when there is nothing affecting the personal rights or personal laws.
A bench of justices S K Kaul and A Amanullah is hearing a petition seeking 33 per cent reservation for women in the elections to local bodies in the state.
During the hearing on Thursday, the bench observed it is not something adverse to the interest of the state which is happening as the people will elect their representatives in the elections. The top court said the Centre have to find a solution in the matter.
“We respect the local sentiments but the law of the land must be followed and it is your duty as the Union government… You have to find a solution. We cannot let the law of the land not being followed,” the bench said.
“You can’t let the law of the land not prevail especially when there is nothing affecting your personal rights or personal laws in this behalf. We are only getting people to represent you who will look after your interest at the grass-root level. How can one have objection to that?” it observed.
The bench told the counsel appearing for Nagaland that it has given long enough rope to the state in the matter. “We have given you a long rope. Don’t make it so long that you hang yourself,” it observed.
The bench noted that Additional Solicitor General K M Nataraj, appearing for the Centre, and the state’s counsel have submitted that they are at the task and request for a short accommodation. “We have put to them the seriousness of the matter as long rope also has its limitations,” it said while listing the matter for hearing in July.
During the hearing, the bench told the state’s counsel, “In the nutshell, the position is, you are not willing to implement the assurances given to the court on the right or wrong pretext that there are groups who don’t want it and you don’t want to go against them.” It asked if a section of a society have a contrary point of view on the issue, does the government “succumb to the blackmail”.
“We are sensitive to the issue in the state and therefore we gave time. There has to be some end to it,” the bench said, adding the state can’t keep the issue hanging.
“We expected some restraint in the CM’s Affidavit. Mr AG do not let us enter into arena where have to declare sumne customary laws unconstitutional,” the court said as quoted by the Bar & Bench in a tweet.
The Centre had earlier told the top court that inter-ministerial discussions are on in pursuance to the apex court’s order seeking its stand on whether the constitutional scheme of one-third reservation for women in municipalities and town councils can be violated by state of Nagaland.
Earlier, coming out with this constitutional argument to justify its March 29 decision to repeal the Nagaland Municipal Act under which women reservation was promised, Nagaland chief secretary in an affidavit said that Nagaland faced a “peculiar situation” as municipalities under the Constitution Part IXA apply to the state while the operation of Panchayats under Part IX stand specifically excluded by Article 243M.
“This has created an anomalous situation in the state whereby women living in the urban areas can claim reservation whereas their counterparts in rural areas do not have such a benefit,” the chief secretary said.
The geographical makeup of the state is such that there is often no clear demarcation between village areas and municipal areas and villages often surround and merge with the municipal areas, informed the state.
In view of such peculiar and unique circumstances prevailing in the state, the affidavit said, “The Government will have to consider such disparity, also taking into consideration the fact that Article 371A of the Constitution applies to the entire State of Nagaland.”


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