The Nagaland Legislative Assembly has repealed the Nagaland Municipal Act 2001 in toto with immediate effect after the house passed a resolution which was moved by Power and Parliamentary Affairs Minister, KG Kenye on Tuesday. The house also resolved that, in order to govern the Urban Local Bodies, a law will be enacted expeditiously by taking into consideration the grievances of all the interested parties so that the elections could be conducted in accordance to law. How expeditiously or how soon, we will have to wait and see. Other than that, there are many other areas of interest that the repealing of the NMA 2001 has brought out in the open. For instance, the issue of 33% reservation of seats for women in ULBs in Nagaland as per Article 243T of the Constitution is sub judice. As the Nagaland Legislative Assembly has repealed the principal Act, does the matter end there? Or, is the Supreme Court going to interfere? Also, does the repeal mean the primacy of Article 371A over Article 243T? If yes, is it safe to rest assured that the matter is now solved for good? Or, is there any room to remain cautious? For as long as we can remember, Article 371A has never been challenged in a court of law by anyone (It will be interesting to know if it ever was). Now that Article 243T has been sort of ‘repealed’ on grounds of infringing Article 371A, are we going to see the legitimacy of it being questioned? These and many other questions strike the mind and quite uncomfortably so. Repealing of Article 370 of the Constitution in 2019 comes to mind. What if the Centre decided to repeal Article 371A one fine day?
Anyway, setting aside the above questions, there is a more pertinent question that needs to be raised. Just two days before the NLA repealed the NMA 2001, the Cabinet held a meeting on Sunday evening. After the meeting, spokesperson and Minister of Power and Parliamentary Affairs, KG Kenye, told a news outlet that the Cabinet had decided to “go ahead with the ULB polls as the state government is obliged to fulfill the directions of the Supreme Court.” What transpired in the 24 hours between the Cabinet meeting and the NLA session on Tuesday morning? Nagaland tribal hohos did have a meeting on Monday while the Nagaland Gaon Bura Federation, ENPO and the Nagaland Tribes council issued separate press releases expressing their respective positions on the issue. Was that enough to force the NLA to repeal the NMA 2001? Or, as the issue is now over 20 years old, did the present government actually have plans to repeal the NMA 2001 but needed a safety valve and the tribal and civil society organizations offered it? It is difficult to read the intent of the government but one thing is clear: our towns and municipalities will not develop as much as we would want them to without elected bodies.