Revisiting all alphabets of Article 371
There are 395 Articles in the Constitution of India; I really don’t know how many have been repealed so far ? Certainly the total number is now much lesser. Some Articles which are complicated, controversial, temporary and redundant have been scrapped.
On 5th August 2019 Article 370 has been done away with. There is another Article of the Indian Constitution i.e., Article 371 which carries a series of special provisions of many States including the State of Manipur. Article 371C provides a special provision with respect to the State of Manipur and Article 371A provides a unique position to Nagaland.
We may have a bird’s-eye view of this Article from 371A to 371J. These Articles give special provisions, power and status to many States. Article 371 A is for Nagaland; 371B is for Assam; 371C is for Manipur; 371D for State of Andhra Pradesh or Telangana; 371E again for Andhra Pradesh for setting up of Central University; 371F is meant for Sikkim; 371G for Mizoram; 371H is for Arunachal Pradesh; 371I is for the State of Goa and finally 371J is specially for the State of Karnataka.
In August 2019, the Parliament of India passed a resolution brought by the Union Home Minister to revoke the temporary status or autonomy granted to the State of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Constitution.
This Article exempted the State of J&K from complete applicability of the Constitution of India. Union Government’s power over the State was restricted only to 3 subjects namely, Defense, Foreign Affairs and Communications. Revocation of special status of J& K through a Presidential order (with the endorsement of Parliament) marks the end of Article 35A too. In fact it was an Article which provided special power to J&K Assembly to define ‘permanent residents’ of the State for bestowing special rights and privileges to them.
I am not a Constitutional expert but I am simply a Law Degree holder, with a modest knowledge of Indian Constitution.
By chance I saw a narration on Article 371 with special reference to Article 371A by an activist; after that I took interest in this Article. I went through the entire Article 371. The message I got is that Article 371A is a very powerful Article. Since it is related to a tiny State in the North East, perhaps nobody bothers–but, this is really unique.
Article 371A provides that no Act of Parliament in respect of religion, social practices, customary law and procedure, administration of civil and criminal justice involving customary law, ownership and transfer of land and its resources shall apply to the State of Nagaland unless the Legislative Assembly of Nagaland by a resolution so decides.
That means this provision is in a way more special than the provisions of Article 370.
I am not saying these special provisions of each State still hold good or not. What I am saying is that whether these Articles are still relevant within the National perspective or in the State context; we need to examine minutely and seriously. We need to study and see in the present context. Whether the President, Governor of the Union Government have their say in these areas ? Is it still required ? What is the ground reality ? Is it different ? That is why we need to have a thorough research and analysis on Article 371.
It may be taken up by Kiren ji’s Ministry i.e., the Ministry of Law and Justice or by the Ministry of Home Affairs. Sometimes laws are creating lots of unnecessary issues between the people leading to frictions and conflicts. So review and revision of laws and Constitutional provisions are extremely important.
While celebrating the 75th year of Independence, it is high time to ponder whether we shall continue with these special provisions provided under Article 371. We need to change wherever required; and at the same time we may annul some of the provisions which are redundant and creating dichotomies. A few may be completely scrapped if the National realities and aspirations demand.
Finally let us come to our Article 371 C which contemplates the constitution and function of a Committee of the State Assembly for the administration of the “Hill Areas” in the State of Manipur under the order of the President of India through the supervision of the State Governor and Executive power of the Union. In this Article, the expression “Hill Areas” means such areas as the President may, by order, declare to be “Hill Areas”. Nearly ninety percent of the total area of the State of Manipur is already included in the definition of “Hill Areas”.
His Excellency the President of India may kindly issue a prudent order for inclusion of the remaining 10% of the total area of the State in the “Hill Areas”. The hill-valley friction creates unnecessary enmity. The present Government has already recognized Manipur as one of the Himalayan States.
Manipur –Entire land should be recognized as ‘Hill Areas’ and the entire population must be treated as ’Scheduled Tribes’. Any takers ?