Nagaland urban local body polls: Law of land must be followed: Supreme Court

Supreme Court

The law of the land must be followed, the Supreme Court said on Thursday while expressing displeasure over the Nagaland assembly passing a resolution to repeal the Municipal Act and resolving not to hold elections for urban local bodies.
The court stated that it respects local sentiments but asserted that authorities cannot let the law of the land not prevail especially when there is nothing affecting personal rights or personal laws.

A bench of justices S K Kaul and A Amanullah is hearing a petition seeking 33 per cent reservation for women in the elections to local bodies in the state. The top court had on April 5 stayed the March 30 notification cancelling till further orders the elections to the urban local bodies in Nagaland which were scheduled for May 16 after almost two decades.
Following pressure from tribal organisations and civil society groups, the Nagaland Assembly passed a resolution to repeal the Municipal Act and resolved not to hold elections. 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 Act.

During the hearing on Thursday, the bench observed it is not something adverse to the interest of the state which is happening as the people will elect their representatives in the elections. The apex court said the Centre have to find a solution in the matter.
The bench told the counsel appearing for Nagaland that it has given long enough rope to the state in the matter. “Don’t make it so long that you hang yourself,” it observed.
During the hearing, the bench told the state’s counsel, “In the nutshell, the position is, you are not willing to implement the assurances given to the court on the right or wrong pretext that there are groups who don’t want it and you don’t want to go against them.” It asked whether a section of society had contrary points of view on the issue, would the government “succumb to the blackmail”.

“We are sensitive to the issue in the state and therefore we gave time. There has to be some end to it,” the bench said, adding the state can’t keep the issue hanging. The Centre had earlier told the top court that inter-ministerial discussions are on in pursuance to the apex court’s order seeking its stand on whether the constitutional scheme of one-third reservation for women in municipalities and town councils can be violated by state of Nagaland.
In its April 17 order, the SC noted that the ‘ingenious method’ adopted to evade the undertaking given to the court earlier about holding the election has been the repeal of the Nagaland Municipal Act, 2001 itself.

It had also observed that in respect of the special provisions with respect of Nagaland under Article 371-A of the Constitution, nothing has so far emerged to advance a plea that religious or social practices of Nagas or Naga customary law and procedure denies the right of equality to women insofar as the participatory process is concerned in such elections.
The apex court had noted in its March 14 order that the SEC counsel had submitted the elections will be held on May 16.

The petitioners have moved an application before the top court through advocate Satya Mitra against the cancellation of the elections and urged it to take contempt action for “disobeying” the March 14 order.