33% reservation for women in civic bodies in Nagaland
Part of: GS-II: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Context: Nagaland government is ready to implement a 33 per cent reservation for women in the civic body polls.
- There is no longer any “impediment” in holding elections to the Urban Local Bodies (ULB), and Nagaland Election Commission can easily schedule dates.
- If implemented, ULB elections, a contentious subject in Nagaland, will be held in the state after more than a decade.
ULB polls have been a subject of controversy in Nagaland
- The civic body elections were first held in the state in 2004, in accordance with the Nagaland Municipal Act of 2001.
- In 2006, the Nagaland Municipal Act of 2001 was amended to include a 33 per cent reservation for women in line with the 1992 Constitutional amendment.
- Reason for Opposition: Many Naga groups contend that the reservations are in contravention with Naga customary laws as enshrined in Article 371(A) of the Constitution — which accords the state special status and protects its traditional way of life.
- Nagaland is a special state under Article 371 A.
- It gives them special status to safeguard their traditional laws and according to their tradition, women are not allowed at administrative posts.
- In February 2017, as the Nagaland government tried holding the elections as per a Supreme Court directive (to hold elections with 33 per cent reservation for women), the state was convulsed by violent protests that led to two deaths, and ouster of the then chief minister T R Zeliang.
- Is everyone in Nagaland opposed to it?: Women’s groups like the Naga Mothers’ Association (NMA) stand on the other side of this debate, and have fought a long legal battle for elections to be held. They argue that reservations do not infringe upon Article 371(A) of the Constitution. Their rationale: Article 371 (A) related to laws made in the Parliament while the reservations had been effected through a Constitutional amendment.
The contention around the polls led the Nagaland government in December 2009 to indefinitely postpone municipal elections, which were due in 2010.
- Despite the high court directing the government to hold the elections in 2011, the Nagaland assembly, in 2012, adopted a resolution rejecting women’s reservation in ULBs.
- October 2021: A committee was formed by the state government to review the Municipality Act 2001.
- February 2022: The Supreme Court rapped the Nagaland state government for delaying the elections, saying that an “important aspect of gender equality seems to be getting postponed.”
- March 2022: The state government convened a meeting with all stakeholders, including civil society organisations, churches, tribal bodies, political parties and NGOs and “unanimously” adopted a resolution to hold ULB polls.
Important value additions:
- Article 371A deals with the special provisions with respect to the State of Nagaland.
- Article 371A (1) (b) – the Governor of Nagaland has special responsibility with respect to law and order in the state so long as internal disturbances caused by the hostile Nagas continue.
- For instance, under Article 371A (1) (b) of the Constitution, important functions like “transfer and posting of officials” entrusted with the maintenance of law and order of and above the district level will be with the approval of the Governor.