Bill reserving 33 pc seats for women passed, election to urban local bodies to be over by April end: Nagaland tells SC

The Nagaland government told the Supreme Court on Friday that the state assembly has passed the bill reserving 33 per cent of the seats in urban local bodies (ULB) for women and the election process will be over by April 30 next year.

The Nagaland assembly unanimously passed the bill on Thursday, resolving the contentious quota issue and paving the way for municipal elections in the state after two decades. Civic polls were last held in the state in 2004.

The provision for one-third reservation of seats for women was included in the bill, as directed by the Supreme Court, Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio said after it was passed.

The apex court is hearing a petition filed by People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) and others seeking 33 per cent reservation for women in the ULBs in the northeastern state.

During the hearing on Friday, the counsel for Nagaland told a bench headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul that since the bill has now been passed, the relevant rules will be framed expeditiously.

“We also want to state before your lordships that this whole procedure will be completed and we will declare the results by April 2024,” the counsel told the bench, also comprising Justices Sudhanshu Dhulia and Ahsanuddin Amanullah.

In its order, the bench noted, “According to him (Nagaland’s counsel), the rules will be framed within a month and the election process will be over by April 30, 2024.”

The bench has posted the matter for further hearing on December 11.

While hearing the matter in July, the top court had slammed both the Centre and the Nagaland government over non-implementation of the constitutional scheme of one-third reservation for women in ULBs.

The top court had earlier asked the Centre to clarify whether the constitutional scheme of quotas for women in municipality and town council elections can be violated by Nagaland, where the assembly had passed a resolution to repeal the municipal act and resolved not to hold elections to the ULBs. The state assembly had passed the resolution bowing to pressure from tribal organisations and civil society groups.

These organisations said Naga customary laws do not allow women to participate equally in political and socio-economic decision-making bodies.

On March 30, the State Election Commission (SEC) issued a notification cancelling the election programme notified earlier “till further orders” in view of the repeal of the municipal act.

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However, the apex court had on April 5 stayed the SEC notification.

Petitioners PUCL and others have moved an application before the top court against the cancellation of the elections and urged it to take contempt action against those concerned for “disobeying” its March 14 order regarding the poll process.

Besides seeking quashing of the March 30 notification issued by the SEC cancelling the election schedule, the application has also sought setting aside of the Nagaland Municipal (Repeal) Act, 2023.

Several Naga tribal bodies and civil society organisations had opposed the ULB election under the Nagaland Municipal Act, 2001, asserting it infringes the special rights for Nagaland guaranteed by Article 371-A of the Constitution.

The 2001 Act, which was amended later, made 33 per cent reservation for women mandatory for holding the ULB elections, as directed by the Supreme Court.

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