THE PROPOSED MANIPUR REGULATION OF NON-LOCAL PEOPLE BILL, 2016
Leaving aside the question of constitutional validity from the mischief of equality and liberty clause under Articles 14 and 19 of the Constitution, the newly draft Manipur Regulation of Non-Local People Bill, 2016 though is a better Bill than the previous Bill still utterly fails to stand the test of Article 371C of the Constitution. Far from being resolving the issue of hill-valley dichotomy, the proposed Bill has serious lacunae still leaving the emotive question of losing their identity and autonomy over their land, property and customary practices unaddressed.
The consequence of the definition of the term “Local People” under Section 2(b) of the Bill is still drastic and unacceptable. The cut-off year 1972 itself may not be the core of the problem, however, defining the term “Local People” on the sole basis of one’s name being entered “in the electoral rolls for 1972” is surely problematic. It means that any hill tribal whose name is not recorded in the electoral rolls of 1972 automatically becomes a “Non-Local People” by operation of law. The addendum in the Explanation that “In case of any polling stations where the electoral rolls for 1972 is not available, the electoral rolls for any nearest subsequent years which is available shall be taken for this purpose subject to necessary corrections” is absolutely vague and does not resolve the contention.
The definition of the term needs to be necessarily redefined and the entry of one’s name in the electoral roll shall not be made the sole basis for defining the term “Local People”. A proviso or an explanation in particular must be inserted for the hill tribals to make sure that their Village Chief records and testimonies as per their customary are final and conclusive proof for the purposes of determining the question whether a person staying in the territorial jurisdiction of the “Hill Areas” is a “Local People” or “Non-Local People” and the term “Hill Areas” must be understood as the term defined under the Manipur Legislative Assembly (Hill Areas Committee) Order, 1972.
The provision of a single Directorate of Registration common for both the hills and the valley as envisaged under Section 3 of the Bill is dehors the constitutional concept of autonomous administration of the “Hill Areas” as envisaged under Article 371C of the Constitution. Section 3 needs immediate redraft and a separate Directorate of Registration must be created for the “Hill Areas” under the direct purview of the Hill Areas Committee and the decision of the Hill Areas Committee shall be final for the purposes of the Act. It must be made abundantly clear that the question whether a person staying in the territorial jurisdiction of the “Hill Areas” is a “Local People” or “Non-Local People” shall also be solely decided by the Hill Areas Committee. The constitutional concept of tribal autonomy over their own identity, land, property and customary practices cannot be compromised in any manner.
The rule/provision making power of the State Government under Sections 10 and 11 of the Bill likewise violates the special autonomy of the Hill Areas Committee as safeguarded under the provisions of Manipur Legislative Assembly (Hill Areas Committee) Order, 1972. A proviso or an explanation must be inserted in the said Sections to ensure that such rule/provision making power in respect of the “Hill Areas” is vested with the Hill Areas Committee alone and that no such rules/provisions made by the State Government is applicable to the “Hill Areas”.
Another crucial loophole in the proposed Bill is its strange silence on the term “illegal migrant/immigrant” who’s otherwise proclaimed object is to check their illegal influx. The proposed Bill has left a huge space for unnecessary speculation and confusion as to its object by not identifying and defining the term “illegal migrant/immigrant”.
The object of the proposed Bill becomes even more confused as the Bill proceeds to punish only the “owner who fails to furnish the names and particulars of the tenants” under Section 5(7), but not the “illegal migrants/immigrants” or the “Non-Local People” who are illegally staying in the State without a Pass.
In another clear case of legislative inadvertence, the proposed Bill is again completely silent on the manner and procedure for identification, eviction/transportation/deportation of the “illegal migrants/immigrants” or the “Non-Local People” who are illegally staying in the State without a Pass. In the glaring absence of such procedural safeguard which is the hallmark of fairness and justice, abuse of power and avoidable harassment at the time of enforcement is inevitable at the hands of the law enforcing authorities.