ATSUM submits memorandum on HAC membership controversy, RPZI resents
Source: The Sangai Express / NNN

Imphal, September 05 2021: The All Tribal Students' Union Manipur (ATSUM), the apex tribal students' organization representing 34 tribes in Manipur, has submitted a memorandum each to Governor La Ganesan and Chief Minister N Biren Singh in the matter of the "Manipur Legislative Assembly Speaker appointing 8 valley MLAs as members of the Hill Areas Committee (HAC) on Sunday.

The memorandum requested the Governor and the Chief Minister to "rescind the orders of the Speaker, Manipur Legislative Assembly dated 1st September 2021 immediately.

Both the memoranda gave reference to the "Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business of the Manipur Legislative Assembly and Hill Areas Committee order, 1972 by the then President VV Giri Sub-Section (1) of Section 3" .

The memorandum, which was made available to Newmai News Network, said that ATSUM was aggrieved by the State Government's actions for issuing an "unconstitutional" order issued by the Speaker on September 1, 2021 to induct 8 new members in the Hill Areas Committee (HAC) .

While strongly expressing resentment for the "blatant disregard to our sentiment and tribal rights' ', ATSUM reiterated its firm commitment to fight tooth and nail to ensure that Constitutional provisions enshrined in the Constitution is prevailed.

According to ATSUM, the appointment order issued in the name of the Speaker of the Manipur Legislative Assembly is unconstitutional and is not only ultra-vires of the Constitution but arbitrary, which showcases the "hegemonic attitude" of the State Government over the tribal people.

"As a matter of fact, the Speaker is not empowered by virtue of Article 371C to include 8 non-Hill House Tax paying Assembly Constituencies under the Hill Areas Committee, it added.

The memorandum also said that the topographical representation of the surface features of a place in the valley, "for instance, few hillocks at sporadic places and the existence of tribal villages in the valley do not qualify to be construed as hill areas due to the simple fact that only the President of India has the authority to define the area(s)," the memorandum said.

It added that the first schedule of the Manipur Legislative Assembly (Hill Areas Committee) Order, 1972 clearly specified "Hill Areas" as the erstwhile Manipur North, now Senapati, Sadar Hills, Manipur East (Ukhrul), Manipur West (Tamenglong) and Manipur South revenue district (Churachandpur).

According to the memorandum, Chandel, Chakpikarong and Tengnoupal were revenue sub-divisions of Manipur Central revenue district.

"Therefore, Hill Areas encompasses only the Assembly Constituencies within the districts and sub-divisions determined in the first schedule under Presidential order 2(C) and not by an authority like the Speaker of Manipur Legislative Assembly," it added.

The memorandum of ATSUM then said that the HAC was constituted by the order of the President as power conferred by Article 371C of the Constitution.

"And that, the expression Hill Areas relating to the constitution of Hill Areas Committee (HAC) can only be declared/defined by the President through an order," it further said.

It then said that the explanation of the Article 371C (Special Provision with respect to the State of Manipur) of Indian Constitution clearly states that the expression "Hill Areas" means such areas as the President may, by order, declare to be Hill Areas.

"Therefore, the Speaker of Manipur Legislative Assembly is not competent or empowered to declare any area as hill areas," it added.

ATSUM then said that the order of the Speaker defeated the "Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Constitution (Twenty Seventh Amendment) Act, 1971 .

The 27th Amendment expressly states, 'Hill Areas of Manipur are predominantly inhabited by members of Scheduled Tribes.

To safeguard their interests special provisions were made in Section 562 of the Government of Union Territories Act, 1963 for a Committee of the Legislative Assembly of the Union Territory of Manipur consisting of members from the Hill Areas.

When the Union Territory of Manipur becomes a State under the reorganisation scheme, the said Section 52 will cease to be operative.

It is proposed, as a part of the scheme of safeguards for the people of the Hill Areas to continue this arrangement even after Manipur becomes a State.

So, a specific provision is being made in the Constitution for the formation of such a Committee (clause 5) .

Therefore, according to ATSUM, inclusion of MLAs from Assembly Constituencies of unscheduled areas in the Hill Areas Committee is irrational.

The ATSUM memorandum then said that the issuance of order of the September 1, 2021 by the Speaker being questioned of its legality from various quarters, another order of September 4, 2021 has been issued by the Secretary of Manipur Legislative Assembly in the name of the Speaker keeping in abeyance the membership of the 8 "valley MLAs" in the HAC instead of rescinding it, has further aggravated resentment among the tribal populace.

"It is worth mentioning here that the 'rule of law' must prevail and for that matter, unconstitutional and arbitrary order for induction of valley MLAs into the fold of the 'Hill Areas Committee' must be done away with, without leaving any space for recurrence," the memorandum added.

The apex tribal student body then said that the "unconstitutional and arbitrary order violating the Constitutional provision is a challenge to the existence of the tribal populace living in Manipur".

As such, ATSUM "fervently requested" the Governor and the Chief Minister to to rescind the order of the Speaker, Manipur Legislative Assembly vide Orders No 5/11(2)/2021-LA(Secy.) dated 1st September 2021 to ensure that Constitutional provision is safeguarded.

"Procrastination of the issue will attract social upheavals," the tribal student body cautioned.

Echoing the same, the Research and Preservation of the Zo Identities (RPZI) also said they are astonished at the sudden and unwarranted induction of 9 new members into the Hill Areas Committee (HAC) on the pretext that their Assembly Constituencies are situated "wholly or partly" in the Hill Areas.

The RPZI also questioned the competency of the Speaker to order alteration of a Constitutionally mandated institution as if it is an internal Assembly matter of the State.

The Research and Preservation of the Zo Identities, therefore, does not accept the order, nor it agreed to its remedial order to keep in abeyance and demands that it should be immediately withdrawn by the Government before the issue escalates and situation goes out of hand.

The Zeliangrong Civil Organisations (ZCOs) viz- Zeliangrong Baudi, Zeliangrong Youth Front and Zeliangrong Students Union have also strongly denounced the impugned Orders of the Speaker.

Zeliangrong Baudi, in a press release maintained that the Speaker Orders is bereft of legal justification, simultaneously superseded the President's Order, 1972 and also clearly reflected the ill motive of the Manipur Government.

It is an attempt to infringe upon the constitutional safeguard and protection enshrined in the Constitution of India for the hill people, it said.

The Constitution of Hills Areas Committee under the Article 371C was enacted by an act of Parliament and so far, neither the Parliament has amended the Article 371C nor the President of India has issued any executive order replacing the said act, it said.

Therefore, the issuance of the orders by the Speaker who is not the members of the Committee is a clear case of undue interference, arbitrary infringement and an act of dictatorship which deserves serious penalty.

Indeed the Speaker is the custodian of the democratic institution like Manipur Legislative Assembly which duly constituted by the Members elected under the Constitution of India.

And it is the bounden duty of the Speaker to uphold the functioning of the Legislature and other statutory bodies related with the Manipur Legislative Assembly and to fulfil the constitutional obligations of those statutory bodies too, it said.

The Zeliangrong Civil Organizations hailed and paid high respect to those responsible and sensible MLAs who have withdrawn their Memberships from the Hills Areas Committee fully knowing well of the legal invalidity.

The withdrawal of the 8 (eight) MLAs, who were illegally inducted as the Members into the Hills Areas Committee (HAC) on the next day of the Speaker's Orders shows that it is neither acceptable nor legally tenable.

The Secretary, Manipur Legislative Assembly on sensing the disastrous consequences of the Hills people has issued an Order on September 4, 2021 which has only "kept in abeyance" which is nothing but a time buying tactic which is not acceptable to the hills people of Manipur.

The demand of the hill people is for complete withdrawal of that impugned order, it said.

The people of the entire State were hopeful that the new Government may usher peace and harmony in the State when it comes to power.

But before completion of even one full term the BJP led Government under the leadership of N Biren Singh as the Chief Minister has resorted to policies which have hurt the sentiment and interest of the people particularly the Hills people.

Manipur is a State of plural societies, therefore, any political party or political leaders trying to stir up the sentiment and attempt to consolidate the interest of a single community in order to overshadow the interest and ignore the sentiment of other communities will be a disastrous and futile exercise which would be detrimental to peaceful co-existence, it said.

ZCOs also urged the Speaker to strictly adhere to the rule of law and the Government of Manipur to realize that the priority of the Government is to bring development and progress with trust and confidence among the citizens.

ZCOs also appealed to the Governor, who is the guardian of the Constitution to intervene into the matter and ensure that such unacceptable and legally untenable Order is never issued in the future.

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