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I. Lalitkumar Singh, Senior Advocate.

The tiny and glorious State of Manipur was a monarchial State before Manipur was merged into the Dominion of India with effect from 15th Oct., 1949 by signing the merger agreement between the dominion of India and the Maharajah of Manipur only on 21st September, 1949 at Shillong.  The Manipur had its own constitutional law and other laws enforced from time to time. The Indian Constitution under which provides such provision of Sixth Schedule came into force only from 26th January, 1950.  As such, in order to clarify the legal position of Sixth Schedule in the State of Manipur as it was a monarchial, independent country ruled by different monarchs from time to time before merger into the dominion of India, it is needed to trace out the source of legislation as to why and how such Sixth Schedule of the Constitution of India had come into force.

In British India, the Constitutional advances began in the year about 1833, as such Regulating Act, 1773 had established the Governorship of four Councillors at Calcutta. Hence,  Lord Warren Hasting was the first Governor General of India. The Governor-General in Council was authorized to make ordinances and regulations for good order/governance and Civil Government of Bengal. In those days, there was hardly any distinction between the administrative and the legislative functions.

The essence of the advance was to centralize the power at the centre. Thus, from the time of the provincial administration as was appeared in 1874, certain parts of it were administered under Schedule District Act,1874.

These were the backward tracts namely (a) Lusai Hills (b) Naga Hills (c) Garo Hills (d) North Cachar Hills and (e) Eastern Frontier tract viz, Lakhimpur, Balipara and Sadiya. The Schedule District were administered through regulation and Indian Council Act, 1861.

The Schedule District Act was repealed when Section 52 (A) and 53 (B) were enacted by the Government India Act, 1919 ( 9 & 10 Geo 5 Ch. 101). Sub Section 2 of Section 52 (A) reads as follows:

  1. 52-A (1). …………………………..

(2). “The Governor-General in Council may declare any territory in British India to be “backward tract” and may, by notification, with such sanction as aforesaid Districts that this Act shall apply to that territory subject to such exceptions and modifications as may prescribed in the notification. Where the Governor-General in Council has, by notification, directed as aforesaid, as he may, by the same or subsequent notification, direct that in act of the India legislature shall not apply to this territory in question or any part thereof, or shall apply to the territory or any part thereof subject to such exception or modification as the Governor General thinks fit or may authorized the Governor-General in Council in similar directions as respect any Act of the local legislature.

Section 52-B was a saving provision which excluded legal proceedings to question any action taken. It is not necessary to quote it here. The name ‘backward tracts’ continued in place of the Scheduled Districts till it was objected to later.

“ The Backward Tracts” were part of the larger entity ‘excluded areas’. The details account of these areas is to be found in the report of Indian Statutory Commission Volume 1 ( Survey. 1930), in Part 1, Chapter-8, Paras 75,80,86,88, 94 and 99. This give the nature of terrain, the kinds of people populating there. Para No. 74 deals with Backward Tract of Assam, the Commission remarked ‘…… nowhere in India is the contrast between the life and outlook of these wild Hillmen and the totally distinct civilization of the plains more manifest’.

A list of these backward tracts was given, explaining what was meant by ‘excluded’. The Commission said that they were subject to special laws prescribing, “simple and elastic forms, judicial and administrative procedure.” The areas were determined from time to time and the laws were applied with such restriction and modification as was deemed fit. Another source of legislative power existed through the regulatory power conferred by Section 71 of the Government of India Act. This was a complete statutory bar to the legislative authority of the legislature within the backward tracts.

In dealing with the backward tracts in Assam, they made many useful comments. They first dealt with Khasi and Jaintia Hills. The Assam Government pointed out that these areas had very intricate organism of their own and would like a Government of their choice subject to the approval of their local representatives.

Subsequently, proposal were worked into the Government of India Act, 1935 to which it may now turn Section 311(1) of the said Act which defined, “ Tribal areas means along the frontier of India in Baluchistan which are not part of British India or of Burma or of any India States or of any Foreign State”.

Section 91 (1) provided that the expression, “excluded area” and “partially excluded area” mean respectively such areas as His Majesty may be order in council declared to be excluded areas or partially excluded areas. The Secretary of the State shall lay the draft of the order which it is proposed to recommend to His Majesty to make under the sub-section before the parliament within six months from the passing of this Act. As such, the excluded areas were:

The North-East Frontier ( Sadiya, Balipara and Lakhimpur tracts)

The Naga Hills

The North Cachar Hills sub-divisions of Cachar District

The Partially excluded areas were:

The Garo Hills

The Mikir Hills ( in Nowgong and Sibsagar Districts)

The British portion of the Khasi and Jaintia Hills Districts other than the Shillong Municipality and Cantonment.

The aforestated sources of Legislative History of Schedule District, Act (1874), the Government of India Act, 1919 and the Government of India Act, 1935 indicates certain areas dominated by population in the backward tracts of Assam are defined as Tribal Areas and excluded areas and partially excluded areas are the areas taken into consideration of the areas referred in Sixth Schedule of the Constitution of India. As such, any areas dominated by any ethnic groups of people in the territorial jurisdiction of Manipur was never been the areas referred and defined in such provisions of the Constitution of India, in view of the fact that the monarchial State of Manipur have never been under the absolute control of the British India.

From the records, it is to mention that when the independent kingdom of Manipur becomes the part of the Indian territory with effect from 15th October, 1949, non of the representatives on behalf of the authority/people of Manipur was participated in those historical Constituent Assembly debate at Delhi before the adoption and enforcement of the present Constitution of India. As such, many important valuable historical, geographical, social, economy, political, custom & cultural and traditional practice and its issues and problems are remained unattended by the authority of the Union of India because of such specific relevant material issues were never known and discussed in such National Constituent Assembly debate.

 The present Manipur attained Statehood on 21st January, 1972 by passing North Eastern Areas Reorganization Act, 1971 and simultaneously by amending Article 371(C) for the State of Manipur which provides for the constitution and functions of a Committee of the Legislative Assembly of the State consisting of members of Manipur Assembly elected from Hills Areas of Manipur, for the modifications to be made in the rules of business of the Government and in the rules of the procedure of the Legislative Assembly of the State and for any special responsibility of the Governor in order to secure the proper functioning of such Committee etc.

Under Part-X of the Constitution of India, in the heading “The Scheduled and Tribal areas”,  Article 244 provides for the administration of Schedule areas and Tribal areas. Such are the provisions carrying/borrowing from the erstwhile Government of India Act, 1935 which was never applicable in the Kingdom of Manipur. On the other hand, such formation of an autonomous State comprising certain tribal areas which referred in the Constitution are for the State of Assam etc and not for the tribal people of Manipur as per the provision of Article 244 A as the said both provisions are never applicable in the State of Manipur.

It is revealed that the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Council Act, 1971 ( Act 76 of 1971) was passed by the Parliament providing for constitution of District Councils for the Hill Areas of the State of Manipur for the smooth functioning and better administration in such Hill Areas of Manipur to protect the rights of the Hill people of different ethnic groups/tribal people settling in the State of Manipur in lieu of enforcement of Sixth Schedule in the State of Manipur as the same is not applicable under the Constitution of India. The aforesaid 1971 Act has been replaced by the State enactment namely Manipur Hill Areas Autonomous District Council Act, 2000 (Manipur Act 11 of 2000) wherein details provisions are made for the functioning of District Councils constituted in the Hill Areas of the State of Manipur.