SC stays order cancelling Nagaland civic polls with 33% women quota | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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SC stays order cancelling Nagaland civic polls with 33% women quota

ByAbraham Thomas
Apr 05, 2023 07:30 PM IST

Nagaland assembly in September 2012 cancelled the 33% quota for women provided under Part 1X-A of the Constitution which was challenged by the Peoples Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) in the Supreme Court in 2016. Though the assembly withdrew the resolution in November 2016, the letter of the law was not implemented due to opposition from state tribal leaders

The Supreme Court on Wednesday pulled up the Nagaland government and the state election commission for violating its direction last month to implement 33% reservation for women in the upcoming urban local body polls and stayed the decision of March 30 cancelling the elections to 36 town councils and three municipal councils to be held on May 16.

Supreme Court of India (Representative Photo)
Supreme Court of India (Representative Photo)

A bench of justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Ahsanuddin Amanullah said, “You (Nagaland government), as well as the state election commission, are in breach of the order of this Court. Our March 14 order is quite clear that any endeavour to tinker with the election process would be in breach of the order of this Court.”

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Nagaland assembly in September 2012 cancelled the 33% quota for women provided under Part 1X-A of the Constitution which was challenged by the Peoples Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) in the Supreme Court in 2016. Though the assembly withdrew the resolution in November 2016, the letter of the law was not implemented due to opposition from state tribal leaders.

Also Read: Nagaland civic polls cancelled; women leaders object repeal of municipal act

On Wednesday, PUCL mentioned an application before the Supreme Court apprising it of the March 30 decision and the attempt being made to defeat the Court’s directions. To this, the bench said, “This is not acceptable. We will not allow this to happen.” The state government counsel was present in Court and informed the bench that it was in the process of filing an application.

The bench issued notice on the PUCL application demanding contempt action to be initiated against Nagaland chief minister Neiphiu Rio, the chief secretary and the state election commissioner and posted the matter for hearing on April 17.

The Court further ordered, “In the meantime, the order of March 30 cancelling the election programme is stayed.” The Court also asked the Centre to respond on a specific prayer in the application to ensure elections be held under the watch and guard of central paramilitary forces.

In its order of March 14, the Supreme Court had noted the concerns of violence apprehended by the state government in going ahead with the polls. The Court said, “Local elections with reservations of women cannot be postponed under such threats. The elections have to be held.”

It ordered the state election commission and Nagaland government to make all arrangements for the conduct of free and fair elections and said, “Any violation by any authority or citizen in breach thereof would be an act in breach of the orders of this Court.”

Following the Court’s order, on March 29 the Nagaland assembly repealed the Nagaland Municipal Act, 2001 under which the election process was announced. With the Act gone, the Nagaland election commission issued a subsequent order on March 30 cancelling the election schedule.

Challenging the two orders of March 29 and 30, senior advocate Colin Gonsalves appearing for PUCL said, “The elections to be held in Nagaland as ordered by this Court have been cancelled with the consent of the chief minister.”

The PUCL application referred to resolutions passed by various associations of urban local bodies threatening to disallow people of Nagaland to participate in elections. On March 27, the tribals hohos of Nagaland wrote to the state government raising certain demands to be met before conducting the elections.

The hohos sought a guarantee that “33% women reservation does not infringe Article 371-A” and proposed that the tenures or the time duration of the application of 33% women reservation be fixed. They desired that such reservations should not exceed more than two tenures. “Until and unless the Nagaland Municipal Act 2001 is reviewed and rewritten, urban local body election may be deferred,” the hohos demanded.

Also Read: Nagaland assembly resolves to repeal Nagaland Municipal Act

It was after resolution, the assembly passed another resolution to repeal the 2001 Act “in toto.” The present resolution was in stark contrast to a consultative meeting held by the state government with tribal leaders and all stakeholders on March 9 where civil society groups, church organisations, tribal hohos, political parties and NGOs unanimously resolved to participate in the polls.

“All efforts are underway to sabotage the process of conducting free and fair elections, fuelled by political parties, with 33% reservation for women as provided by the Constitution of India and that this Court has finally ordered after over a decade of struggle by the women of Nagaland,” stated the application filed by advocate Satya Mitra.

The state achieved a milestone recently when the Assembly polls conducted early this year led to two women getting elected, with one of them even becoming a minister in the state cabinet, a first in the history of the state.

On March 14, the Court commented, “It is a peculiar scenario in the state. Society is educated and egalitarian in many ways. But somehow, this issue of gender (equality) still remains.”

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