Article 371 and the North Eastern states

Article 371 of the Indian Constitution has sections A-J which are aimed at granting special provisions to certain states of India, namely Nagaland, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Assam, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Goa.

Article 371A of the Constitution states that no act of Parliament would apply to the state of Nagaland in matters relating to religious or social practices of Nagas, Naga customary law and procedure, administration of civil or criminal justice involving decisions according to Naga customary law and ownership and transfer of land and its resources. The Legislative Assembly of Nagaland must pass a resolution for an act to be applicable to the state. The governor is given special responsibilities with respect to law and order in the state as well.

Article 371B which applies to Assam empowers the President to provide for the Constitution and functions of a committee of Legislative Assembly of the state consisting of members elected from the tribal areas of Assam. Article 371C applies to Manipur.  Here, too, the president may provide for the Constitution and functions of a committee of Legislative Assembly of the state, but consisting of members elected from the hill areas of Manipur. The governor must submit an annual report to the president regarding the administration of hill areas as well.

Article 371F applies to Sikkim and was incorporated into the Constitution in 1975. It states that the Legislative Assembly shall consist of not less than 30 members. In order to protect the rights and interests of the different sections of the population in the state of Sikkim, seats in the assembly are provided to people of these different sections.

Article 371G which applies to Mizoram say that the Legislative Assembly of Mizoram should consist of not less than 40 members. Following the same provisions as Nagaland, no act of Parliament would not apply to Mizoram in matters relating to religious or social practices of Mizo, Mizo customary law and procedure, administration of civil or criminal justice involving decisions according to Mizo customary law, ownership and transfer of land and its resources.

Article 371H, operative in Arunachal Pradesh says the governor will have special responsibility with respect to law and order in the state.

In the light of Home Minister Amit Shah’s assurances that Article 371 as applied in the North eastern states will not be touched, the point to be noted is that such special provisions do not extend to states like Tripura and Meghalaya. What happens to special provisions granted by the 6th Schedule of the Constitution in Meghalaya which has often been seen by the permanent non-tribal residents of the state as an insular, exclusivist constitutional provision? These questions need clarity.

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