Hill Area Committee (HAC) of Manipur Legislative Assembly : An assessment
- Part 2 -

Prof Gangmumei Kamei *

Manipur Legislative Assembly Building
Manipur Legislative Assembly Building :: Pix - TSE

(iii) Manipur Hill People's Regulation

The Manipur State Constitution Act, 1947 provide for a democratic constitutional monarchy. There was a 53-member assembly including 18 MLAs from hill. There was a council of ministers consisting of several ministers who had to supervise the administration of hill area under Manipur Hill People's Regulation, 1947 which was a well formulated local government system for the hill areas.

The Regulation further provided for a three tier judicial system. There was a Village Authority in a village of 20 or more tax paying houses. There was a circle authority over this village authorities and the apex was also a Hill Bench and above the Hill Bench was the Chief Court of Manipur. The Regulation was praised as a good piece of legislation in hill areas. It constitutes to operate in Manipur even after Merger into Indian Union, and the abolition of the Chief Court and Hill Bench (1956) and the Circle Authority (1955).

3. The Constitutional Provision for legislation and administration in Hill Areas:
Hill Sanding Committee and Hill Areas Committee (HAC)

With the introduction of Union Territory Council Act, 1956, Manipur was provided a Council of 30 members and 2 nominated members. This Council was provided with a committee known as Hill Standing Committee with a separate Chairman. The Committee consisted of the Territorial Council member from hill constituencies.

In the North Eastern State Reorganization Act, 1971 accompanied by the introduction of Article 371 (C) in the Constitution of India, in the Legislative Assembly of Manipur, a standing Committee named Hill Area Committee was constituted. The Hill Area Committee is empowered by the Constitution to monitor the law making and administration of hill areas. At the time of movement for statehood in Manipur, the tribal leaders wanted constitutional safeguard for tribal people.

The Parliament provides the Constitutional safeguards in form of an amendment, Article 371 (C) in the Constitution of India.

According to this Article, "The President may…..provide for the constitution and functioning of a Committee of the Legislative Assembly of the State consisting of the members of the Assembly elected from the Hill Areas…for any special responsibility of the Governor in order to secure the proper functioning of the Committee."

The sub-section No (2) of this Article further states, "The Governor shall annually or whenever so required by the President, make a report to the President regarding the Hill Areas in the State of Manipur and the execution power of the Union shall extend to the giving of direction to the state as to administration of the said area."

As per this Constitutional provision:
1st , the President of India shall constitute the Hill Area Committee of the Assembly,
2nd , the Governor has been entrusted a special responsibility and power to ensure that the Hill Areas Committee functions properly,
3rd the Governor shall report periodically to the President on the administration in Hill Areas,
4th , the Government of India is empowered to issue direction to the state on the status of administration in the hill areas.

Dr V V Giri President of India promulgated the Manipur Legislative Assembly (Hill Areas Committee) Order, 1972. The First Schedule of the order describes the "Hill Areas" and the Second Schedule contains the list of the Schedule Matters (13 in number).

The Hill Areas Committee had four legislative functions.

(i) All Bills except money Bill containing the Schedule Matters shall be referred to HAC for consideration and report to the Assembly.
(ii) The HAC shall have the right to consider and pass resolution recommended by the government of the state, legislative or executive action affecting the Hill Areas with respect to the Scheduled Matters.
(iii) The HAC shall have the right to discuss the Annual Financial Statement (State Budget) in so far it relates to the Hill Areas and to facilitate discussion in the budget of Hill Areas.
(iv) The Bill recommended by the HAC may be passed by the Assembly with variation.

With regard to the general functions:

i) The HAC shall safeguard the interest of the people of the Hill Areas particularly the accelerated development of the area.
ii) The HAC shall promote unity between the people of the Hill Areas and other areas of the state.
iii) The HAC has special responsibility on the development plan of the Hill Areas, "The development plan shall be placed before the HAC for its views and its views will be taken in account before the plans are finalized".

The Government shall submit quarterly report to the HAC showing the progress of the implementation of the plans.

Scheduled Matters

The Scheduled Matters which are under the Jurisdiction of the HAC are:
i) The power and function of the District Councils
ii) Development and Economic Planning
iii) Allotment, Occupation or use or sell a part of land
iv) Management of Forest (other than Reserve Forest)
v) Use of Land and Water resources for the purpose of agriculture
vi) Regulation of the practice of Jhum or the other forms of shifting cultivation
vii) Establishment of village committee or council and their power and their matter relating to village administration
viii) Public health and sanitation
ix) The appointment or succession of chief or the headman
x) Inheritance of property
xi) Marriage and divorce
xii) Social customs
xiii) Any other matter, which the Assembly may by resolution declare to be a matter which shall come within the provision of the Hills Areas Committee.

The analysis of the power and function of the Hill Areas Committee shows that the HAC is a powerful instrument to safeguard the tribal interests and promote good governance and developmental process in the Hill Areas. However, it is necessary to examine how far the HAC has been able to protect the tribal interests.

4. Conclusion

i) It is said but true that the HAC has been sabotaged by the Legislative Assembly controlled by ruling parties and the executive departments. It has become a white elephant of the legislature of Manipur.

ii) The leaders who are supposed to be key players in the HAC are more obsessed with their identity political aspiration and competition to get benefits of the office of the Chief Minister and other Ministers keep their eyes shut on the problems to be discussed in the Committee. They have not succeeded in evolving common ground or consensus on common tribal issues like district autonomy, reservation for Scheduled Tribes in recruitment to Government services and problems of land laws in hill areas.

iii) The post of the Chairman of the Hill Areas Committee which is the main pivot of the Committee has become a mere tool in the hands of the ruling party without caring for the common tribal interest.

iv) The Government represented by the Ministers and bureaucrats dealing with different departments have totally ignored the Hill Areas Committee. There is great need for change of the mindset of the legislators of both the valley and the hills towards this important constitutional safeguard provided at the time of granting of statehood. With a positive attitude towards the Article 371 (C) and subjects provided in the Scheduled of the President's Order, 1972 several effective measures can be taken up.

v) Governor of the state is duty bound under the Constitution to monitor the working of Hill Areas Committee and the administration of the hill/tribal areas

vi) Most importantly, the leaders of the hill people and the tribal intellectuals including the members of the media are to compel the members of the Hills Areas Committee to do their job as provided by this important constitutional safeguard.

(Concluded) ..

* Prof Gangmumei Kamei wrote this article for Hueiyen Lanpao (English)
This article was posted on December 17, 2012.

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