Municipal polls with 1/3rd women quota will be over by April 2024: Nagaland tells SC

New Delhi, Nov 10 , The Nagaland government on Friday apprised the Supreme Court that the process of municipal elections in the northeastern state with one-third quota for women will be completed before April 30, 2024.

In its order, a bench of Justices S.K. Kaul, Sudhanshu Dhulia and Ahsanuddin Amanulla recorded that it has been given “good news” of passing of the Nagaland Municipal Bill 2023 by the state Legislative Assembly.

Advocate General K.N. Balgopal, appearing on behalf of the state government, submitted that a further period of “one month” is needed to expeditiously frame the relevant rules under the recently passed law.

“We also want to state that this whole procedure will be expeditiously completed and we will declare results by April 2024,” said Balgopal.

The bench ordered listing of the matter on December 11 by which time it “expects rules to be framed”.

It may be recalled that the Nagaland Assembly on Thursday passed the Nagaland Municipal Bill 2023 by voice vote mandating 33 per cent quota for women in state urban local bodies (ULBs).

In July this year, the Supreme Court had granted “one last opportunity” to the Centre and Nagaland government for implementation of women reservation in state municipalities and town councils as it heard a plea filed by Peoples Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL).

The top court, on March 14, had directed the state government to conduct the urban local body (ULB) elections, and the State Election Commissioner notified the holding of the elections on May 16.

In the meantime, local body polls were cancelled till further orders by the State Election Commission soon after the Assembly passed the Nagaland Municipal Act (Repeal Act) 2023, repealing the Nagaland Municipal Act 2001 in toto following the strong protest against the women reservations in ULBs by the various Naga tribal hohos and civil society.

However, the Supreme Court, while hearing a petition on April 5, stayed the March 30 Nagaland poll panel notification cancelling the ULBs elections in Nagaland.

In the hill state, the Naga organisations claimed reservations for women in ULBs would go against their community’s customary laws.

The cultural, societal, traditional and religious practices, land and resources in Nagaland are protected under Article 371A, which also exempted from the 73rd Amendment to the Constitution for the setting up of municipalities.

But the 74th Amendment did not give that exemption on the grounds that the state’s urban administrations were not part of the customary practices.

“In respect of the special provisions with respect of State of Nagaland under Article 371A of the Constitution of India, nothing has so far emerged to advance a plea that religious or social practices of Nagas or Naga Customary Law and Procedure denies the right of equality to women insofar as the participatory process is concerned in such elections,” the top court had earlier recorded in its order passed on April 17.

In 2001, Nagaland enacted its Municipal Act and the first civic bodies elections were held in 2004 but without reservation.

The government issued a notification for the next civic bodies elections in 2012 but the polls could not be held following objections from tribal bodies, who strongly opposed women reservation. In 2017, violent protests forced the government to declare the poll process null and void.

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