IMPHAL, Dec 28 (NNN): The Ex-ADC Members’ Forum of Manipur has apprised Prime Minister Narendra Modi to hold elections to the Autonomous District Councils in Manipur without further delay. The Forum submitted the memorandum to the Prime Minister in New Delhi on December 22.
In the memorandum, the Forum said that the Autonomous District Councils (ADC) of Manipur are neither in the 5th Scheduled nor in the 6th Scheduled of the Constitution of India. But the 6 Autonomous District Councils of Manipur was established in the Hill Areas under the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Councils Act, 1971 to provide a separate scheme for the administration of ‘Hill Areas’ with regard to primary schools, public health, sanitation, land and forest, market etc. The Autonomous District Councils are also vested with legislative powers for administrative and welfare services including development and economic planning, said the memorandum of the Forum to the Prime Minister.
The Forum recalled that the last elections to the ADCs for the tenure 2015-2020 were held on June 1, 2015 and the tenure ended on May 31, 2020. Since then, the State Government has failed to conduct ADCs’ elections till date for reasons unknown, it also said. The failure to conduct ADCs’ elections even after two years is an act of suspension of democratic process and suppression of constitutional rights of the “hill tribal people of the State” which is granted under Article 371C of the Constitution of India, said the memorandum. The Hill Areas Committee (HAC) has recommended for holding of ADCs elections on time vide its Resolution No.35/2020(HAC) dated October 8, 2020 and Resolution No.39/2021-(HAC) dated April 12, 2021, it pointed out. The delay in holding the ADCs’ elections has not only negatively affected the development prospects in the Hill Areas but also gravely degenerates the democratic institution of local self-Government in the Hill Areas of Manipur, it stated.
“As the proverbial saying goes, ‘justice delayed is justice denied’, ‘we feel that non-holding of ADCs’ elections has the potential of creating more ‘divide between the hills and the valley’ in Manipur”, it further stated.
“It may not be wrong to say that most of the developmental activities in all fields and aspects are concentrated in the valley by the successive Manipur Governments keeping the Hill Areas far behind which is generating displeasure amongst the tribal people of the State. Absence of ADC members for taking up developmental activities in the Hill Areas is one of the factors for such disparity,” it added.
The Forum then quoted the Supreme Court what the latter had said about delay in conducting local body elections in the context of Madhya Pradesh in 2022. “Noting that years of delay in conducting elections to over 23,000 local bodies in Madhya Pradesh ‘borders on the breakdown of the rule of law’, the Supreme Court on May 9, 2022 declared that State Election Commissions across the country cannot skip its constitutional obligation to conduct polls to local bodies every five years,” it also stated.
According to the Forum, a bench led by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, in a judgement, said election commissions cannot reel out grounds like ongoing delimitation or formation of new wards to delay elections where it was due or even overdue. “Ongoing activity of delimitation or formation of ward cannot be a legitimate ground to be set forth by any authority, much less the State Election Commission, to not discharge its constitutional obligation in notifying the election programme at the opportune time and to ensure that the elected body is installed before the expiry of the five-year term of the outgoing elected body,” the Supreme Court held.
“Moreover, the Manipur High Court was pleased to dispose the writ petition vide Order dated 02-03-2021 with the direction that, ‘The State Election Commission, Manipur is directed to announce the date on which the election of the District Councils shall be held within a week from the date of receipt a copy of this judgement and order’”. However, no positive action was taken by the Manipur State Election Commission till date, the Forum added.
The Ex-ADC Members’ Forum of Manipur then said that it was of the considered views that the State Government is delaying the elections to ADCs of Manipur on one pretext or the other. The Forum wanted that the State Government “takes the local bodies seriously by conducting elections on a regular basis”. The Forum further said that two years’ gap without holding ADCs’ elections is a serious matter of concern for the tribal people of the State. “We want the local self-Government to be functional in a true spirit of democracy. It is in this context that, we earnestly appeal to you and your Government at the Centre to kindly intervene in the matter and give necessary suggestions and advice to the Manipur State Government to conduct the ADCs elections at the earliest,” the memorandum of the Forum to the Prime Minister added.
The Ex-ADC Members’ Forum of Manipur also said that a similar memorandum was submitted to Union Home minister Amit Shah recently.