Mokokchung, March 10 (MTNews): Three organizations in Nagaland have said that they will not allow or participate in the Nagaland ULB elections scheduled to be held on May 16 unless the government review or amend the Nagaland Municipal Act, 2001 regarding taxation on land and buildings and reservation of seats for women in ULBs.
The Association of Kohima Municipal Ward Panchayat (AKMWP), All Ward Union Mokokchung Town (AWUMT), and Dimapur Urban Council Chairmen Federation (DUCCF), have written to the Nagaland Chief Minister reiterating their earlier demand of amending or reviewing the Act relating to particular sections and clause(s) that they said infringes upon Article 371-A of the Constitution of India.
The representation was signed by Thejao Sekhose, President, AKMWP; Limanungsang, President, AWUMT; and Zasivikho Zakiesato, President, DUCCF.
The three organizations demanded for deleting Section 120 (1) (a) of the Act referring to “A tax on land and building,” and those provisions relating to ownership of land and building. They stated that the Naga people are absolute owners of their land, and said that the rights and protection under Article 371-A cover the entire State of Nagaland “without any classification on rural and urban areas.”
“Apparently, the 3rd amendment of the Nagaland Municipal Act, 2001 in 2016 with regard to “tax on land and building” as mentioned in Section 120(4) & (5), Section 121 (1) (a), Section 143, 144, 145 and 182 (d) appears to have been quoted the word ‘omission’ or ‘omitted’ are ambiguity and cryptic proposition.” They, therefore, demanded that the words ‘omission’ and ‘omitted’ be replaced or rectified with the word ‘deleted.’
The three organizations further maintained that Article 371-A provides that no Act of Parliament would apply unless the Legislative Assembly of Nagaland by a resolution decides in respect of Naga customary law and procedures, administration of civil and criminal justice, ownership and transfer of land, social and religious practices.
They further said, “The Naga customary law does not allow women to equally participate in the political and socio-economic decision making.” They said that Rule 23A for reservation of one-third seats for women in the municipal elections as mandated by Article 243T of the Constitution of India was inserted by amendment of the Nagaland Municipal Act 2001. “This was vigorously protested by various tribal bodies and organizations spearheaded by the Joint Coordination Committee (JCC),” they said, which led to arson and loss of lives, forcing the government to withhold the municipal election by a cabinet notification.
In this respect, the organizations suggested the formulation of a “policy for women nominee(s) with voting right” instead of the 33% reservation of seats for women in ULBs. “Deletion of the provisions provided in the said Act on the Tax on land and buildings and nomination of women in the municipality is the aspiration and demand of the Nagas,” they further said.
The three organizations further questioned whether it is for the legislature to decide what constitutes social reform. “In a democracy governed by rule of law, gradual progressive change should be brought about. Making law or amendment to a law is a slow process and the legislature attempts to remedy where the need is felt most acute. It would, therefore, be inexpedient and incorrect to think that all laws have to be made uniformly applicable to all people at the same time,” the organizations said.
They also said that the words “unless the Legislative Assembly of Nagaland by resolution so decides” in Article 371-A has “cast a special responsibility upon the legislators of the State in making policy and decisions that would not offend the customary rights of the people nor infringe other fundamental provisions of the Constitution.” The policy makers and administrators, they said, should be vigilant in understanding the social fabric of society in implementation of any law or policy.
The organizations further suggested that the government activate the committee constituted in 2017 to amend/review the Act with specific reference to the “tax on land and building” including “the proposed 33% women reservation.”
Reiterating their earlier demand, the organizations said, “However, if the Act is not rectified/amended, it will set a precedent which will be detrimental to the rights of the Naga people as enshrined in the Indian Constitution.”
Stating that the protest against the ULB election was linked to one another as land, taxation and reservation for women are related to Article 371-A, a powerful provision which others do not have, the three organizations maintained that “the municipal is not above the Constitution and any law passed should be in consonance with the Constitution.”
“For the Nagas, Article 371-A is related to both territory and the people; for Nagas the land and all resources belong to the people. All resources include people and women and accordingly, a law deciding on the political rights of the Naga women rests with the people,” they claimed.
They further asserted that Article 371-A is a right granted to the Naga people that protects Naga tribes from colonial as well as the Indian system of taxation. “If the Naga people pay tax to the government, then it implies that the land belongs to the government, whereas, for the Nagas the land belongs to the people,” they stated.
“If 15% tax is levied on the demarcated municipal area, there will be many people who will be deprived and lose their land and building, they will not be able to pay taxes,” they said. They also said that in Nagaland, a municipal area may not necessarily be an urban area since some municipal areas are underdeveloped and rural, and, therefore, cannot tax the people.