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Seminar on Art-371C of the Indian Constitution

The Hill Areas Committee of the Manipur State Assembly: Critically Analyse

                                                                                                                           ~ Dr. R. Sanga

R Sanga newThe hill areas of the present Manipur have been inhabited by the tribal indigenous peoples, and have never been parts of Kangleipak or Manipur ruled by the Meitei Raja until the advent of the British colonizers. It was with the intervention of the British colonizers, who placed Manipur under their protectorate with a political agent that was changing from time to time. In 1835 Pemberton mentioned that:

 

The territory [of Manipur] comprised within the boundaries thus specified, occupies an area of 7,000 square miles, of which a valley of 650 miles of rich alluvial soil constitutes the central portion; remainder is formed by an encircling zone of hilly and mountainous country inhabited by various tribes….The southern boundary of the Muneepoor Territory is very irregular and ill defined; unconquered tribes, of whose existence we have but recently become acquainted.[1]

 

At present, out of its total geographical area 10% is in the valleys, which is a home to around 65% of the total populations while the hill areas are inhabited by various tribal communities belonging to Naga and Zo (Kuki-Chin) Indigenous Peoples. In 1857, Mc Culloh, the Political Agent of Manipur wrote:

 

Before the connection of the British Government with that of Manipur took place, the latter, not to speak of exerting influence over the tribes, was unable to protect the inhabitants of the valley from their exaction of blackmail, and even after the conclusion of peace with Burma, and the fixation of a boundary for Manipur, the majority of the tribes were independent, and known to us little more than by name. With the assistance of the arms and ammunition given to Manipur by the British Government, some of the tribes have been thoroughly, the northern one particularly, reduced, and the attack of the one that bordering Burmese have led to apprehensions of the interruption of the general peace of the frontier.[2]

 

The Manipur valley is the confluence of various Hill ranges: The Chin Hills, Lushai Hills, Cachar Hills and Naga Hills of the Indo-Burma borderland, and the British colonizers stations as a political agent at Imphal engaged with the Hill tribes and bring them under their control indirectly. It is not the Manipur Raja that brought the hill tribes under the present Manipur, but the British who constructed by slicing out certain portion of those hill ranges. B.K. Roy Burman aptly remarks that, “For quite sometimes in the nineteenth century the British policy was to consolidate the control over the tribals in the borders of Burma and Cachar through the king of Manipur.”[3] Thus, with the formation of Manipur under the auspice of the British colonizers, all the tribes inhabiting those portioned sliced out from the hill ranges to be a part of Manipur were cut-off from their own cognate tribes inhabiting the other parts of the hill ranges.

 

In this way, Manipur princely state has geographical areas covering hills and valley. It merged with the Indian Union on the fifteenth day of October 1949 after some initial reluctance on the part of the then Maharaja. Since, Manipur was a princely State at the time when the Sub-committee of the Constituent Assembly was formed to deal with the tribes in the Northeastern region of India. Such historical experiences of the tribal peoples in Manipur has became the root cause of their problems, and also how they were left out to be protected under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution of India. However, when the Manipur was alleviated to full-fledged state, attempt has been made the Government of India to deal with the questions of the tribal peoples of Manipur. Thus, the Constitution (27th amendment) Act, 1971 a specific provision was made in the Constitution of India for the formation of Manipur Legislative Assembly (Hill Areas Committee) by insertingarticle 371C to safeguard the rights of the people in the hill areas of Manipur, this was followed by the promulgation of the Manipur Legislative Assembly (Hill Areas Committee) Order, 1972.

 

Constitutional Safeguard for the Hill Areas (Tribal Areas) of Manipur:

 

Article - 371Cof the Constitution of India makes some special provisions for safeguarding the interests of tribal minorities of the State of Manipur, which reads as under:-

 

“(1) Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution, the President may, by order made with respect to the State of Manipur, provide for the constitution and functions of a Committee of the Legislative Assembly of the State consisting of members of that Assembly elected from the Hill Areas of that State, for the modifications to be made in the rules of business of the Government and in the rules of procedure of the Legislative Assembly of the State and for any special responsibility of the Governor in order to secure the proper functioning of such Committee”.

 

In terms of Regulations framed under this provision, members of the State legislature elected from the hill areas have been given powers to deliberate on legislative proposals concerning matters affecting land, water, forests and tribal customs in such areas - subjects which essentially form part of Paragraph 3 of the Sixth Schedule. Such legislations require approvals of the legislators. Budget and plan provisions for such areas also require clearance of this Committee.

 

The Fifth Schedule and the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution of India provide the mechanism for the administration of the Schedule Tribes and they refer to two areas. One is called the Scheduled Areas under the Fifth Schedule and the other is called the Tribal Areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and some selected areas of Mizoram under the Sixth Schedule. The tribal areas of Manipur are included in the Schedule Areas but not covered by the Tribal Areas of the Sixth Schedule.

 

The Constitutional Provision for Legislation and Administration in Hill Areas: Hill Standing Committee to 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 members from hill constituencies. In the North Eastern State Reorganization Act, 1971 accompanied by the introduction of Article 371C in the Constitution of India, in the Legislative Assembly of Manipur, a Standing Committee was renamed “The Hill Areas Committee.” The Hill Areas Committee is empowered by the Constitution to monitor the Law making and administration of hill areas.

 

The Parliament provided the constitutional safeguards in form of an amendment, Article 371C in the Constitution of India. According to this Article, “The President may…provide for the constitution and functioning of the Hill Areas Committee 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 executive power of the Union shall extend to the giving of direction to the State as to the administration of the said Areas.”

 

Hill Areas Committee of the Assembly:

(1)   There shall be a Hill Areas Committee of the Assembly consisting of all the members of that Assembly who for the time being represents the Assembly constituencies situated wholly or partly in the Hill Areas of the State.

 

Provided that the Chief Minister of the State and the Speaker shall not be members of the Hill Areas Committee.

 

(2)  Every Minister (including a Minister of State or a Deputy Minister) of the State shall have the right to speak in and otherwise take part in the proceedings of, the Hill Areas Committee, but shall not, by virtue of such right, be entitled to vote at any meeting of the Committee if he is not a member thereof.

 

As per this Constitutional Provision:

 

1st, the President of India shall constitute the Hill Areas 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 of the Hill Areas,

4th, the Government of India is empowered to issue direction to the state on the status of administration in the Hill Areas.

 

The President of India, Dr. V.V. Giri, promulgated the Manipur Legislative Assembly (Hill Areas Committee) Order, 1972. The First Schedule of the Order describes the “Hill Areas,” viz., (1) Manipur North, Manipur East, Manipur West and Manipur South revenue districts; and (2) Chandel, Chakpikarong and Tengnoupal revenue sub-divisions of the Manipur Central revenue district. The Second Schedule contains the list of the Schedule Matters (13 in number).

 

Functions of the Hill Areas Committee:

(1)   All Schedule Matters in so far as they relate to the Hill Areas shall be within the purview of the Hill Areas Committee.

(2)  Every Bill, other than a Money Bill, affecting wholly or partly the Hill Areas containing mainly provisions dealing with any of the Schedule Matters shall, after introduction in the Assembly, be referred to the Hill Areas Committee for consideration and report to the Assembly.

 

Provided that if any question arises whether a Bill attracts the provisions of this sub-paragraph or not, the question shall be referred to the Governor and his decision thereon shall be final.

(3)  The Hill Areas Committee shall have the right to consider and pass resolutions recommending to the Government of the State, any legislation or executive action affecting the Hill Areas with respect to any schedule matter so legislation or executive action relates to general questions of policy and the legislation or executive action is in conformity with the over-all financial provisions for the Hill Areas made in the Annual Budget or contemplated in the Plans of the State.

(4)  The Hill Areas Committee shall have the right to discuss the Annual Financial Statement (State Budget) in so far as it relates to the Hill Areas and to facilitate such discussion the said statement shall, as far as may be practicable, show separately the estimates of receipts and expenditure pertaining to the Hill Areas which are to be credited to, or is to be met from, the Consolidated Fund of the State.

 

(5)  In its functioning, the Hill Areas Committee shall endeavor –

(a) To safeguard the interests of the people of the Hill Areas, particularly through accelerated development of those areas, and

(b) To promote unity between the people of the Hill Areas and other areas of the State by aiming at an integrated and evenly based economic growth of those areas and augment the resources of the State as a whole.

 

Development Plans:

 

(1)   Before the Five Year Plan and the Annual Plans of the State are finalized by the Government of the State proposals in this behalf, which shall show separately the plan schemes proposed to be taken up in the Hill Areas and the rest of the State, shall be placed before the Hill Areas Committee and the views of the Committee shall be taken into account before the Plans are finalized.

 

(2)  The Government of the State shall forward to the Hill Areas Committee quarterly reports showing the progress of the implementation of the Plans relating to the Hill Areas.

 

Scheduled Matters:

 

The Scheduled Matters which are under the jurisdiction of the Hill Areas Committee are:

 

(1)         Development and Economic Planning.

(2)         Constitution and Powers and Functioning of District Councils in the Hill Areas.

(3)         The allotment, occupation or use, or the setting apart of land.

(4)         The management of any Forest not being a reserved forest.

(5)         The use of any canal or water course for purposes of agriculture.

(6)         The regulation of the practice of Jhum or other forms of shifting cultivation.

(7)         The establishment of village committee or councils and their powers; and any other matter relating to village administration.                                  

(8)         Public health and sanitation.

(9)         The appointment of succession of Chiefs or Headmen.

(10)     The inheritance of property.

(11)     Marriage and divorce.

(12)     Social customs.

(13)     Any other matter which the Assembly may by resolution declares to be a matter which shall come within the purview of the Hill Areas Committee.

 

 

Facts to Ruminate, To Self-Adjust, To Self-Transform and To Revamp Oneself in Conformity to the Fact Itself:

 

(1)   It is said, but true that the Hill Areas Committee have 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. It should be totally stopped immediately.

(2)   The Tribal leaders, the Apex Body of the Tribal Communities in Manipur within the Hill Areas Committee must be in well conversant to the facts of the Hill Areas Committee Order, 1972 and make a sudden halt from the practices of parochialism, politics, competition of gaining favours from the Chief Minister and his kitchen to the Altar of their beloved poor co-tribals in the Hill Areas Constituencies.

(3)   The post of the Chairman of the Hill Areas Committee which was the main pivot of the committee has become a mere tool on the hands of the ruling party without caring for the common tribal interest. It should be stopped at once.

(4)   The government represented by the Ministers and bureaucrats dealing with different department have totally ignored the Hill Areas Committee. There is a 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 371C and subjects provided in the Schedule of the President’s Order, 1972 several effective measures can be taken up.

(5)   Governor of the State is duty bound under the constitution to monitor the working of the Hill Areas Committee and the Administration of the Hill/Tribal Areas.

(6)   The present Hill Areas Committee must be renamed as the Hill Assembly of Manipur as it is more or less the same.

(7)   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 Hill Areas Committee to do their job as provided by this important constitutional safeguard.

 

Comparison of MLA (Hill Areas Committee) Order, 1972 (New Delhi, the 20th June, 1972) and Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business, Manipur MLA Secretariat, Government of Manipur (Eight Editions, 2005):

 

 

The only constitutional protection that the tribal peoples of Manipur have is provided in the Constitution of India under Article 371C by providing the “Hill Areas Committee.” The tribals of Manipur are benefitted by the constitution of this Committee. Even if the least constitutional power has been given to the Governor of Manipur to safeguard the interests of the tribal people under Article 371C of the Indian Constitution in the original Hill Areas Committee Order, 1972 promulgated by the President of India, Dr. V.V. Giri there are arbitrary and illegal alterations of the two vital words, which bluntly curtailed the powers of the Governor viz., (i) “Governor” and (ii) “Discretion” which are being changed into “Government” and “Direction” respectively in the comparison Table Sl. No. 2 & 3as shown below. Some of the important words are also altered by using singular number in place of plural number (e.g., Modification is used in place of Modification(s), which is to be used as plural number as per the Original Order, 1972) when this Order was reproduced and published in the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Manipur Legislative Assembly Secretariat: Manipur, Imphal by the Government of Manipur dated the 31st October, 2005 [Eight Editions] as shown below:

 

Sl.

No.

Hill Areas Committee Original Order, 1972

Manipur Legislative Assembly Secretariat, GoM

 

1.

 

Rule 4, Sub-section (3) Functions of the Hill Areas Committee: 

The Hill Areas Committee shall have the right to consider and pass resolutions recommending to the Government of the State any legislation or executive action affecting the Hill Areas with respect to any scheduled matter so legislation or executive action relates to general questions of policy and the legislation or executive action is in conformity with the over-all financial provisions for the Hill areas made in the annual budget or contemplated in the Plans of the State.

 

Rule 4, Sub-section (3) Functions of the Hill Areas Committee: The Hill Areas Committee shall have the right to consider and pass resolutions recommending to the Government of the State any legislation or executive action affecting the Hill Areas with respect to any scheduled matter _____ (omitted) or executive action relates to general questions of policy and the legislation or executive action is in conformity with the over-all financial provisions for the Hill areas made in the annual budget or contemplated in the Plans of the State.

 

2.

 

Rule 7 – Modifications in the Rules of Business of the Government of Manipur:The modifications directed in the Third Schedule shall be made in the Rules of Business of the Government of Manipur, 1972 and shall not in any way be affected by any amendments that may hereafter be made in the said Rules by the Governor under article 166 of the Constitution, otherwise than with approval of the President.

 

Rule 7 – Modification in the Rules of Business of the Government of Manipur:The modifications directed in the Third Schedule shall be made in the Rules of Business of the Government of Manipur, 1972 and shall not in any way be affected by any amendments that may hereafter be made in the said Rules by the Government under article 166 of the Constitution, otherwise than with approval of the President.

 

3.

 

Rule 9 Special responsibility of the Governor:

The Governor shall have special responsibility for securing the proper functioning of the Hill Areas Committee in accordance with the provisions of this Order and shall, in the discharge of his special responsibility, act in his discretion.

 

Rule 9 Special responsibility of the Governor:

The Governor shall have special responsibility for securing the proper functioning of the Hill Areas Committee in accordance with the provisions of this Order and shall, in the discharge of his special responsibility, act in his direction.

 

4.

 

The Fourth Schedule –

Modifications to the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business of the Manipur Legislative Assembly, 1964. (5) after Rule 157, insert – 

157A

(2) When the Bill is not approved by the Hill Areas Committee but is passed by the Assembly, the Speaker shall submit to the Governor the Bill as passed by the Assembly together with the Bill as reported by the Hill Areas Committee.

 

The Fourth Schedule –

Modifications to the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business of the Manipur Legislative Assembly, 1964. (5) after Rule 157, insert – 

157A

(2) When the Bill is not approved by the Hill Areas Committee but is passed by the Assembly, the Speaker shall submit to the Governor the Bill as passed by the Assembly together with the report ofthe Hill Areas Committee.

 

 

Conclusion:

 

Those changes in the State Government publication, have drastically been curtailed the powers of Governor for which the Constitution empowered to act on behalf of the President of India in the interests of the tribal peoples in the Hill Areas of Manipur. It can, since (1972) then be term as the State Government designed for interfering in the affairs of the entire administration of the Hill Areas Committee over the hill tribal indigenous peoples; who are being subjugated for more than 40 years due to their political ignorance and lack of legal awareness. The State Government is not interested to implement Article 371C in letter and spirit and make functional as it is going to benefit only the tribals.

 

Oh! You, sleeping tribal elected leaders; it’s a high time for you to wake up; the Bible says: “And I sought for anyone among them who would repair the wall and stand in the breach before me on behalf of the land….” (Ezekiel 22:30) and arise for the people you are representing and execute your duty bounded rights of legislation and execution by putting into action.

 

Let each and every tribal leader, who represent the people in the Assembly be awakened and worked together for safeguarding the interests of tribal of the State of Manipur. Let the tribals of Manipur be no longer deprived of; from the blessing nectar enshrined in the Constitution of India.

 

References:

 

Government of India Second Administrative Reforms Commission Fifteen Report, State and District Administration April, 2009. Special Autonomous Councils Created By State Enactments (In Assam and Manipur).  

 

Kamei, Gangmumei, Prof. “The Hill Areas Committee (HAC) of the Manipur Legislative Assembly: An Assessment, Seminar Paper Presented on May 11, 2013 at Hotel Imphal, Manipur.

 

The Gazette of India, Extraordinary Part II – Section 3 – Sub-Section (i) Published by Authority [No. 165] New             Delhi, Tuesday, June 20, 1972. Ministry of Home Affairs: The Manipur Legislative Assembly (Hill Areas Committee Order, 1972.

 

Rules of Procedure and Conduction of Business in Manipur Legislative Assembly Secretariat: Manipur, Imphal [Eight Editions, the 31st October, 2005].

 

Sanga, R., “Tribal Rights on Land, Forest and Natural Resources” – The 3rd World Zomi Convention, 2013 Souvenir pp. 173-175, Published & Released by the Publication Board dated October 25 -27, 2013.      

 

 

Seminar Paper: “Article 371C of the Indian Constitution on the Hill Areas Committee of the Manipur State Assembly.” Critically Analyse. Dr. R. Sanga, Director, Imphal School of Preaching. On December 9, 2013. Tribal Research Institute (TRI) At 11:00 A.M.,

Chingmeirong, Imphal, Manipur, North-East India.



[1] R.B. Pemberton. 1998. The Eastern Frontier of India, New Delhi: Mittal Publications (First published in 1835), p. 21.

[2] M. Mc Culloh. 1980. Valley of Manipur, Delhi: Gian Publication (First printed in 1857), p. 57.

[3] B. K. Roy Burman. ‘Prefatory Introduction’ in Alexander Mackenzie. 2005. opcit., p. 10

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