TODAY -

Comment on ADC Bill

C Doungel *



The entire Manipur hill areas seem to be agog about enactment of the Autonomous District Council Bill. The obsession appears to have caught up with the hill people so strongly that I decided to examine the same by making inquiries and hearing out the opinion of some knowledgeable people I chanced to come across.

Unable to fmd a satisfactory answer I even sought out the opinion of some members of district councils as well as chairmen, but they did not appear to have a clear view about the matter. Some, though unwilling to hazard a clear cut opinion rather evasively hinted that coming under the administrative control of the Hill Areas Committee may not be any better.

In view of the excessive hype about this which has grown into a burning issue, I ventured to enter into a domain where angels even would fear to tread. The same which has been built up into a baffling issue appear to have several dimensions to it. The protagonist of the Bill had based their entire thrust on Ministry of Home Affairs order of 1972 which had been rescinded.

Before converting into a political issue, one ought to first examine the Constitutionality and workability of the mechanism of the order. Article 371C provides for modifications and amendments to be carried out in the Rules of Business of the Government of Manipur and Rules and Procedures of the Assembly to secure proper functioning of the Committees.

It is felt that the original order of MHA was rescinded because administrative power to be given to Hill Areas Committee is neither spelt out nor implied. However, the inherent power of check envisaged will not be effective without examination and review of applicability of laws in relation to hill areas relating to
(1) land and its transfer,
(2) regulation of carrying on business,
(3) regulation of Forests,
(4) preventing application of Panchayati Raj (as there is this local self-Government i.e District Council etc).

In fact, this now constitutes the main function under Article 371C, when Bills other Financial Bills are referred to Hill Areas Committee. Further, District Councils being placed under two authorities will create more confusion and problems.

Moreover, specific provision giving special powers to the Governor in the administrations of hill areas being adequate, another power centre will not only be redundant but will create further complication.

This situation would not have arisen, had the Autonomous District Councils been originally placed straight away under Sixth Schedule as in the case of Tripura which was also a princely State. This would have been by far the best arrangement even over the much hyped ADC Bill or the wishful aspiration termed Territorial Councils demanded by some insurgent groups.

District Councils under Sixth Schedule would better ensure protection of identities, land etc as well as provide a more complete local self-Government with adequate autonomy. It would be a disaster if we cannot foresee the likely clashes that can occur between members of Legislative Assembly, District Councils and also the newly demanded Territorial Councils if created.

As for new districts created recently, they being not very different from the mother districts ethnically and socially, Regional Councils ought to meet their aspirations. In case of Territorial Councils being created, a thought should be given as to whether District Councils would be abolished or all should exist together in the principle of "the more, the merrier".

With regard to enactment of an Act, there is well set procedure prescribed. If enactment of law is felt necessary, draft prepared by the administrative department should be vetted by Law Department which Cabinet should approve. It should then be introduced in the House after obtaining its permission. After discussion in the House, the same may be passed as such or sent to Select Committee for further examination.

Bills, other than Money Bill having effect on tribal people should be referred to Hill Areas Committee which may approve as such or recommend modification. HAC on its own is not vested with the power of legislation.

Further, a draft Bill becomes a Bill only when the same had been introduced in the House. The so-called HAC Bill is a misnomer and misleading. The member concerned who champion the so-called Bill had simply kept the draft during his speech which is just a part of his speech.

One alternative process he could have adopted was to introduce as a private member Bill and elicite an assurance from the Govt to enact a law on the same line. It now appears that Tribal people have been taken for ride. This has an adverse reflection on the Government too in that it exposes their incompetency.

Had the position been properly clarified when the same was brought up, the people would not be misled so badly, bringing the situation to such a pass.

But who am I to pass judgement on a Government happily running on the "Hu Ha" chorus and satisfying the 'want' of most citizens. As long as the "feel good" factor is prevalent and people live in their own paradise whether of fools or wise men makes no difference.

It is very rightly said that the people get the Govt they deserve in a democracy. For what we are having is a democratic Govt after all.


* C Doungel wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on August 13, 2022.


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