ATSUM demands implementation of Article 371-C

    20-Jul-2021
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Newmai News Network
IMPHAL, July 19: While reiterating the demand for effective functioning and absolute implementation of the provisions of Article 371C of the Indian constitution and its subsequent order “The Manipur Legislative Assembly (Hill Areas Committee) order, dated 20th June 1972 issued by Dr VV Giri, the then President of India", the All Tribal Students’ Union Manipur (ATSUM) has apprised the Governor of Manipur on Monday to do the needful.
ATSUM then accused the State Government of having a "crafty nature" to distort the customary land use policy of hill areas of Manipur.
In a memorandum, ATSUM reminded the Governor that Manipur state is a multi ethnic state "sharply" divided into hills and the valley. The tribal student union said that the hills and the valley were administered "differently" even before the "colonial period". The hill people had their own polity with well regulated land ownership system, judicial system and other social institutions based on customary laws, the student body also said.
"Whereas, the lands in hill areas were regulated by traditional practices and customary laws of the tribal people," it also said.
According to ATSUM, with the conquest of Manipur by the British, the administration of the entire hill areas was under the responsibility of the president of Manipur State Durbar who was a British ICS officer. ATSUM also said that the British introduced the system of Indirect Rule.
The tribal student body then said that, with the Manipur Union Territory becoming State under North Eastern State Reorganisation Act, 1971 and introduction of Article 371C in the constitution of India, the Hill Areas Committee in the Manipur Legislative Assembly to monitor the law making and administration of hill areas was constituted through the Manipur Legislative Assembly (Hill Areas Committee) order, 1972 promulgated by Dr VV Giri, the then President of India.
"The HAC was empowered to look into matters relating to allotment, occupation, or use, or setting apart land in hill areas. No legislation or executive action affecting the Hill Areas with respect to any schedule matters including land can be enacted or formulated without the consent of HAC. Thus, customary landing holding practices continue to be regulated in the hill areas till today under the protection of article 371C," ATSUM added. According to the apex tribal student body, despite the fact that, the lands in the hill areas are protected by  Article 371C of Indian Constitution, successive government of Manipur state has been persistently trying to dilute the traditional land holding system of the hill areas by extending Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms Act, 1960 in the hills.
"To the tribals, the extension of the Act to their areas is encroachment into their territory. The tussle between the State Government and the tribal Chiefs/Headman, Civil Organizations etc., pose a grave situation," it also said.  
 The tribal student body then said that the "Office Memorandum No 16/16/2019-R (SALE DEED) dated July 7, issued by the Secretariat: Revenue Department, Government of Manipur" is unconstitutional and does not have merit for extension in the hill areas of Manipur because the allotment, occupation, or use, or the setting apart of land (other than any land which is reserved forest) for the purpose of agriculture or grazing or for residential or other non-agricultural purposes or for any other purpose likely to promote the interest of the inhabitants of any village or town situated within the Hill Areas is within the purview of Hill Areas Committee and Autonomous District Councils. As such, a mere Office Memorandum of Revenue department cannot overrule constitutional provision.
ATSUM then said that, in a judgement passed by Apex Court Madhya Pradesh & Anr vs Thakur Bharat Singh AIR 1967-SC1170 "every act done by Govt or by its officers must, if it is to operate to the prejudice of any person, be supported by some legislative authority."
"Therefore, consequent upon the above facts and circumstances, your honourable office is beseeched to promptly intervene into the matter and ensure that the rule of law as enshrined in Article 371C of Indian constitution is honoured and effectively implemented by invalidating the extension of the Office Memorandum No 16/16/2019-R(SALE DEED) dated 7th July issued by the Secretariat: Revenue Department, Government of Manipur in the hill areas," ATSUM demanded.