House rejects state’s inclusion in Article 371

Govt against panel to examine Accession

SHILLONG: A resolution moved by Opposition Congress MLA Ampareen Lyngdoh in the Assembly to urge the government to enact a law for inclusion of the historical Instrument of Accession in Article 371 of the Constitution to protect the citizens of the state was defeated by voice vote.
The government also rejected the plea of the Opposition MLAs to form a committee to discuss the matter.
Moving the resolution, Lyngdoh said with the suspicion and fear emanating from certain policies of the Central government adversely affecting the citizens of the state, there is a need to enact a law at the earliest.
Stating that there is a merit to substantiate the demand for the inclusion of Meghalaya under Article 371 (J) of the Constitution of India, she added that several political parties in the state time and again had committed to support the inclusion of Instrument of Accession and Annexed Agreement in Article 371.
She also referred to Article 371(G) of the Constitution which is currently applicable to Mizoram and as per the provision, the Parliament cannot decide on the matters of the religious and social practices of the Mizos, civil and criminal law of the land, land ownership transfer, and customary law procedure without the consent of the Assembly.
Lyngdoh pointed out that in addition to 371 (G), Mizoram also has the provisions under Sixth Schedule.
Lyngdoh also said Meghalaya is no longer protected by the constitutional provisions of the Sixth Schedule as they have been compromised and even para 12 A (b) could not be defended in recent times.
Para 12 A (b) has the provision for a presidential notification to exempt Meghalaya from the central laws.
The state had sought exemption from central mining laws through 12 A (b) to facilitate coal mining but in vain.
She also said MMDR act is in operation and Article 244 (2) of the Sixth Schedule was set aside and ignored.
She termed the MMDR act as a serious threat to the customary rights and practices especially in context of the Sixth Schedule.
Asking the government to constitute a joint committee with KHADC and back the move of the council which has already started consultations regarding the Instrument of Accession, she added that India is vulnerable to a political tyranny as the government will subvert constitutional provisions to ignore the existing provisions.
The motion was also supported by Congress MLA George Lyngdoh who said that Sixth Schedule was only for tribals but now it has been shredded even as he added that there should be reservation of seats for Rangbah Shnong and Dollois in the autonomous district councils.
The request for the formation of the committee to study the previous reports and laws was also made by the Opposition Leader Mukul Sangma who said that the Centre is imposing many things on the state even as he lamented that the government at the Centre does not understand the great diversity of the nation.
Though Renikton Lyngdoh Tongkhar (HSPDP) opposed the resolution, he said there is a need to protect the indigenous people of the state.
Supporting the resolution, PT Sawkmie (Congress) said that several initiatives are required to protect the interest of the people of the state.
Replying to the resolution, District Council Affairs Minister James Sangma said all the matters pertaining to the Instrument of Accession and Annexed Agreement have been placed under the Sixth Schedule and the autonomous district councils have made several laws including the Land Transfer Act, Christian Marriage Act, Trading by non tribals and others.
Informing that a Bill to amend the Sixth Schedule is under examination of a standing committee of the Centre, Sangma said adequate protection for the interest of the residents of the state has been taken in the Sixth Schedule.
He also said 55 of the 60 legislative seats are reserved for the local indigenous population.
Admitting that ample mechanisms are required to be put in place for the protection of the people, Sangma said several union ministers are visiting Meghalaya to understand the local situation which will be a game changer.
“It is wrong to say that federal structure is in jeopardy, infact more interactions are taking place now between the states and the Centre,” he said while adding that the government is working towards bringing a mechanism to allay the fears of the state.
He also said there is no need to incorporate the Instrument of Accession and Annexed Agreement under Article 371 as Meghalaya has a special provision of district councils under the Sixth Schedule.
“We cannot abolish district councils. The decision to replace district councils with Article 371 would be negative for the state”, he said.
However, both Mukul and Lyngdoh intervened and said that the Opposition never demanded for the removal of district councils but it is asking for the reinforcement of the existing constitutional provisions.
Sangma also said there is no need for a committee to be setup on the matter as a committee already exists for the amendment of the Sixth Schedule.
Chief Minister Conrad Sangma said a committee has already been formed to look into all the aspects and if needed, the government can seek the opinions of all the political parties.
However, the chief minister did not give any assurance to the plea of the MLAs to form a separate committee to examine the Instrument of Accession and Annexed Agreement and hence Lyngdoh refused to withdraw the resolution leading to its rejection by the government.

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