Imphal Review of Arts and Politics

Advertisements
IRAP Inhouse half page print edition
Dr Helena Eye Care Centre
Police trying to control ATSUM members protest in Imphal demanding HAC's ADC Bill 2021

District Councils (Seventh Amendment) Bill, 2022 Divests Hills House Tax From State Revenue and Delegate More Power To HAC Than to ADC

While the All Tribal Students’ Union, Manipur (ATSUM) has strongly condemned Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren’s recent statement that the “Manipur (Hill Areas) Autonomous District Councils Bill, 2021” has divisive agenda, and alleged the statement as an attempt to politicise and criminalise the tribal movement and further deprive the tribal people of constitutional rights, the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Councils (Seventh Amendment) Bill, 2022 divests Hills House tax from the State Revenue for developmental purposes in the Hill Areas and give more power to the Hill Areas Committee (HAC) than the District Councils.

Alleging that Chief Minister’s statement is a ploy to mislead the people of the state and foster further misunderstanding between the hill tribes and the valley community, the ATSUM stated that there is nothing as such in the contents of the bill that aims to disintegrate the state but autonomy and equitable development for the hill areas as envisaged in the Article 371C of the Constitution of India.

Article 371C states: (1) Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution, the President may, by order made with respect to the State of Manipur, provide for the constitution and functions of a committee of the Legislative Assembly of the State consisting of members of that Assembly elected from the Hill Areas of that State, for the modifications to be made in the rules of business of the Government and in the rules of procedure of the Legislative Assembly of the State and for any special responsibility of the Governor in order to secure the proper functioning of such committee.

(2) The Governor shall annually, or whenever so required by the President, make a report to the President regarding the administration of the Hill Areas in the State of Manipur and the executive power of the Union shall extend to the giving of directions to the State as to the administration of the said areas. (Explanation.– In this article, the expression “Hill Areas” means such areas as the President may, by order, declare to be Hill areas.)

The ATSUM reiterated that as empowered by Article 371C, read with the Manipur Legislative Assembly (Hill Areas Committee) orders 1972, the HAC had recommended a landmark Manipur (Hill Areas) Autonomous District Councils (ADC) Bill, 2021, which is permissible under the law to strengthen the ADC and ensure equitable development in the state of Manipur while adding that the HAC have done their constitutional duty as specified under paragraph 4 (3) and paragraph 7 of the President’s order 1972.

Rather than derailing the genuine constitutional demand of the tribal populace, the Chief Minister should facilitate the flow of the legislative procedures in the Manipur Legislative Assembly by introducing the Manipur (Hill Areas) Autonomous District Councils Bill 2021 which was recommended by the HAC, the ATSUM asserted.

However, many experts say that the Hill Areas Committee has no authority to draft a bill, and the HAC is a recommending body.

Former Commissioner and Secretary to the Governor of Manipur, retired IAS officer Dr. R K Nimai also has insisted in his artilces and telivision discussions that the HAC is a recommending Body and not an Executive Body and hence not competent to draft legislations, though the Draft may have been drafted with the help of lawyers. Their desire should be made known and it is for the State Government to draft the Bill.

Section 4 (3) and Section 7 of the Manipur Legislative Assembly (Hill Areas Committee) Order 1972, which the HAC of the 11th Manipur Legislative Assembly and the ATSUM have quoted repeatedly, state – Section 4(3): The Hill Areas Committee shall have the right to consider and pass resolutions recommending to the Government of the State any legislation “or executive action affecting the Hill Areas with respect to any Scheduled matter, howsoever that the executive action relates to general questions of policy and the legislation or executive action is in conformity with the overall financial provisions for the Hill Areas made in the Annual Budget or contemplated in the Plans of the State.

Section 7: Modification in the Rules of Business of the Government of Manipur – The modifications directed in the Third Schedule shall be made in the Rules of Business of the Government of Manipur, 1972 and shall not in any way be affected by any amendments that may hereafter be made in the said Rules by the Government under Article 166 of the Constitution, otherwise than with the approval of the President.

Notably, the 12th Manipur Legislative Assembly in its 11th Sitting of the Second Session on August 5, 2022 has passed the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Councils (Sixth Amendment) Bill, 2022 which has increased the number of District Councils to 10 from six.

Moreover, Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren’s government has tabled in the House on August 3 the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Councils (Seventh Amendment) Bill, 2022, which incorporates many of the provisions from “The Manipur (Hill Areas) Autonomous District Councils Bill, 2021” prepared by the Hill Areas Committee. However, on August 5, 2022 the Bill has been referred to the Hill Areas Committee after a motion by Tribal Affairs and Hills Minister Letpao Haokip, who said that there were some technical errors in the bill and needs to be examined by the Committee.

Significantly, the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Councils (Seventh Amendment) Bill, 2022 which has been referred to the Hill Areas Committee proposes to divest Hills House tax from the State Revenue for developmental purposes in the Hill Areas.

The Seventh Amendment Bill 2022 states: After clause (e) of section 33 Power of Taxation of the Principal Act, the following shall be inserted, namely: “Notwithstanding anything contained in any other law or any other provisions of this Act, it is clarified that upon coming into effect of this Act, the Hill House Tax paid by the villagers in the Hill Areas of Manipur shall be collected by the Deputy Commissioner concened as tax revenue, and which can be used for developmental purposes in the Hill Areas, as per rules as may be prescribed by the State Govemment in this respect.”

It may be mentioned that the Principal Act means the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Councils Act, 1971.

Moreover, the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Councils (Seventh Amendment) Bill, 2022 gives more power to the Hill Areas Committee (HAC) rather devolution power to the grassroots and the District Councils.

In the Principal Act, the HAC has no power regarding the Budget of the District Councils. Section 45 of the Principal Act, Budget.– says (1) A District Council shall, on or before a prescribed day in each year submit to the Administrator an estimate of the income and expenditure of the Council for the next financial year in such form as may be prescribed. (2) The Administrator may, on or before a prescribed day, return the estimate of the Council with or without modifications. (3) When a budget is returned with modifications under sub-section (2), the Council shall consider the proposed modifications, take a decision thereon and report the same to the Administrator. (4) The budget estimate finally adopted by the Council shall be the budget of the District Council. (5) Any subsequent alteration in the budget or reappropriation or transfer of provision within the estimate shall be made with the approval of the Administrator.

However, the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Councils (Seventh Amendment) Bill, 2022 proposes the Hill Areas Committee to be the authority to which District Councils shall submit the estimate of the income and expenditure.

The Seventhe Amendment says, “For section 45 of the Principal Act, the following shall be substituted, namely:

“45. Budget: (1) Every Autonomous District Council shall, on or before 30th November of each year submit to the Hill Areas Committee, an estimate of the income and expenditure of the Autonomous District Council for the next financial year in such form as may be prescribed.

(2) The Hill Areas Committee shall prepare a consolidated estimate of the income and expenditure for all the District Councils for the next financial year and shall submit the same to the State Govemment, for further submission to the Govemor as per procedure as may be prescribed by the State Government in this regard.

(3) The Governor may, on or before a prescribed day, retum the estimates of income and expenditure, as submitted by the State Govemment, with or without modifications.

(4) When a budget is retumed with modifications under sub-section (3), the State Govemment shall refer the modified estimates to the Hill Areas Committee which shall consider the proposed modifications, take a decision thereon and report the same to the State Government. The State Govemment shall thereafter submit the report of the Hill Areas Committee to the Governor, in accordance with procedures as may be prescribed in this regard.

(5) In accordance with the provisions ofthis Act and for the purpose of this section, the State Govemment may prescribe detailed procedure for preparation of budget estimate and budgetary allocation in accordance with the Constitution of India.”.

Again the Seventh Amendment Bill 2022 gives the Hill Areas Committee in the Control of the District Councils. To bring in Hill Areas Committee in the structure, Section 46 (1) & (4) of the Principal Act are proposed to be replaced by new ones.

According to Principal Act, Section 46 Control.–  says: (1) It shall be the duty of the Chairman of a District Council to furnish to the Deputy Commissioner a copy of the proceedings of the meetings of the Council and such other information as the Deputy Commissioner may require.

(4) When the Deputy Commissioner makes any order as aforesaid, he shall forthwith send a copy of it to the Administrator with a statement of the reasons for making it and forward in due course to the Administrator the explanation, if any, offered by the Council and the Administrator may, thereupon, confirm, modify or rescind the order of the Deputy Commissioner.

However, the Seventh Amendment Bill, 2022 proposes, “In section 46 of the Principal Act,- (1) for sub-section (1), the following shall be substituted, namely:- “(1) It shall be the duty of the Chairman of a District Council to furnish to the Deputy Commissioner and the Hill Areas Committee, a copy of the proceedings of the meetings of the Council and such other information as the Deputy Commissioner and the Hill Areas Committee may require.”.

(2) for sub-section (4), the following shall be substituted, namely:- “(4) When the Deputy Commissioner makes any order as aforesaid, he shall forthwith send a copy of it to the Governor and the Hill Areas Committee with a statement of the reasons for making it and forward in due course to the Governor the explanation, if any, offered by the Council and the Governor may, thereupon, confirm, modify or rescind the order of the Deputy Commissioner.”.

These are some provisions of the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Councils (Seventh Amendment) Bill, 2022 which divest Hills House Tax from State Revenue and give more power to the Hill Areas Committee than devolution of more power to the District Councils and hill dwellers.

Also Read