The 60-member Nagaland Assembly has unanimously resolved to repeal the Nagaland Municipal Act of 2001 with immediate effect, thereby negating the possibility of the State holding the elections to the urban local bodies (ULBs) with 33% of the seats reserved for women.
Traditional tribal, community-based, and urban NGOs have been opposing the Neiphiu Rio-led government’s March 9 decision to hold the ULB polls on May 16 following a Supreme Court directive. The Naga Hohos (apex tribal bodies) also threatened to boycott the polls if the government failed to guarantee that holding the civic polls would not violate the provisions of Article 371A of the Constitution of India granting special rights to Nagaland, including protection of Naga customary laws.
On March 28, the last day of the first session of the 14th Nagaland Legislative Assembly, the House resolved to repeal the Nagaland Municipal Act (NMA) “in toto” after a thorough discussion and enact a fresh law to govern the ULBs.
The NMA was enacted for the demarcation of the jurisdictions of the municipal and town councils and the civic body polls were held for the first time in 2004. The Act was amended in 2006 under the 74th Amendment to the Constitution of India for including the reservation of 33% of the seats across 39 municipalities for women.
The NMA was amended again in 2016 to include tax on land and buildings within the municipal areas. The civic polls with the quota for women were announced in 2017 but had to be aborted after it triggered widespread violence leading to the death of two persons and the burning down of several government offices.
The discussion on the NMA 2001 was initiated by Parliamentary Affairs Minister K. G. Kenye under Rule 50, which allows deliberation of matters of urgent public importance. The MLAs representing all political parties participated in the discussion.
Taking note of the stiff opposition to the ULB elections, the House resolved that civic polls cannot be conducted unless the NMA 2001 was repealed and replaced by another Act that would not be seen as violating the provisions of Article 371A. Leaders of women’s organisations in the State could not be contacted for their views on the development.