The Constitution of India was adopted on 26th November 1949. The Sixth Schedule of the Constitution of India is a special provision meant to safeguard the interests of tribals living in the states of Meghalaya, Assam, Nagaland, Mizoram and Tripura. One of our own Rev. J J M Nichols Roy and others from our State too played a pivotal role in making the Sixth Schedule. Every Indian be it young or old individuals, public or private entities etc respects and honours the Constitution in letter and spirit. Only the MDA government of Meghalaya seems to be oblivious of the words “Honour” and “Respect” for the Constitution which is the building and binding block of this great nation.
Let me clarify on the above, recently the MDA cabinet cleared an approval for seeking consent of the Governor to extend the tenure of the Autonomous District Councils (ADCs) of the Khasi and Jaintia Hills by six months under the pretext that the ADCs found it impractical to conduct the elections due to delimitation. This is an absolute fallacy.
As per the Sixth Schedule in Paragraph 2 Sub Paragraph 6A, there are only two conditions that the extension of the Autonomous District Council is possible. Firstly, when there is an emergency, the District Councils term can be extended by a period of six months and secondly, when the Governor finds that it is impracticable to conduct the elections, he may extend the tenure of the District Councils by a period of one year. I find that the decision of the MDA government over this decision is seriously flawed. The government combined two separate conditions to suit their own interests.
If the extension is for six months then it’s safe to say that the premise of this argument by the MDA government is due to emergency and not one of which is impractical. I find this act of the government really perplexing which tantamount to serious tampering and circumventing the laws of the land designed by our forefathers for our well being.
So one begs to know as to what kind of emergency are we facing or what kind of impractical situation is there that the ADC elections need to be extended. If it is due to an emergency, let’s hope the MDA government is not using the Manipur violence as a reference for their flawed reasoning. If it is impractical to hold the elections due to the so-called delimitation process, then why was it possible to hold elections just five years ago in 2019 and not now?
Moreover, delimitation of ADCs was completed in the year 2012, so, what is the need to redo the whole exercise just after eleven years? Interestingly the delimitation process takes somewhere between two to three years to complete. Firstly, a committee has to be created which will be tasked to submit a report of their findings, this process alone takes one to one and half years. After submission of report, there would be public hearings to ascertain the willingness of raid, shnong, dong etc to be absorbed in another constituency or to absorb another in theirs.
Let’s not forget the political leaders who will create hue and cry for losing part of their vote bank to a competitor or gaining a vote bank which is against them. For instance, in the last delimitation of constituencies, the MDC from Laitkroh, during a session of KHADC, stood on a table during business hours and tore the delimitation document in protest, since most of his people had been delimited to another constituency. If this is solved then the matter will go on to the State Assembly for discussion. Here again counter sparing will happen. Only and only if all are on board can the approval for assent of the Governor be sent.
From the above arguments, one can only infer that there exists a hidden agenda and hence this match fixing by the government is happening probably out of fear of losing the elections, potential financial loss and the greed for power. So if the delimitation process is not complete then we will again face one after another extension till the ruling MDCs are well fed and satisfied.
Recently the MDA government has issued a statement that delimitation is not unprecedented but precedent is absurd and is an absolute disregard for the rule of law, promotion of systematic and illegal activities within the government. In simple words, just because a crime committed goes unnoticed and unpunished, that doesn’t mean repeating the same act is not a crime anymore. The statement is offensive and an insult to the law abiding citizens.
The previous Mukul Sangma government extended the GHADC tenure by two years on grounds that they expected some special provisions under the ANVC pact with the Government of India. This too is a heinous crime for disregarding the Constitution of India. The MDA government’s action on this matter is appalling, outrageous and a betrayal of the voters of the State whose rights are poised to be robbed.
A case in point as of now is removal of the Meghalaya Lokayukta officers of which the government succeeded in doing so by not honouring the Lokayukta Act. All in all I can safely say that this is one of the many experiments by the people running the government for their own personal benefit at the cost of our future. Let’s cross our fingers that some sense would prevail and this decision to extend the ADCs tenure doesn’t see the light of the day and to set a precedent that tampering and circumventing the law culture is not at all acceptable.
(The writer is a practising lawyer)