Home Minister Amit Shah, on his first visit to the North East after the tumult caused by the publication of the National Register of Citizens (NRC)'s final list at the end of August, sought to reassure people that Centre will "not touch" Article 371 of the Constitution, which provides special status to the six states of the region. Shah's statement also comes amid prolonged tension after the government abrogated Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, which accorded similar provisions to the restive state.
Article 370 was "clearly" temporary in nature but Article 371 is about special provisions in the North East and there is a "vast difference" between the two, Shah said on Sunday while addressing the 68th plenary session of the North East Council in Assam.
"I have clarified in Parliament that this is not going to happen and I am saying it again today in the presence of eight chief ministers of North East that the Centre will not touch Article 371", Shah added.
What is Article 371?
Article 371 is a provision of the Constitution which contains special provisions for eleven states, of which six are in the North East region. For the North East states — Nagaland, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Sikkim, Mizoram — the law seeks to preserve the indigenous communities' culture by according the states individual special status.
In addition to provisions for the North East, the law also specifies special conditions for districts of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Goa, and Telangana. However, reports argue that the range under Article 371 "does not include any provisions that can be deemed 'special'".
"All these provisions take into account the special circumstances of individual states, and lay down a wide range of specific safeguards that are deemed important for these states," a report by The Indian Express noted.
The sections of Article 371 which deal with Maharashtra and Gujarat dictate that the governors of the states have a "special responsibility" to establish "separate development boards” for “Vidarbha, Marathwada, and the rest of Maharashtra”, and Saurashtra and Kutch in Gujarat.
Additionally, the law also states that the state government must "ensure equitable allocation of funds for developmental expenditure over the said areas”, and “equitable arrangement providing adequate facilities for technical education and vocational training and adequate opportunities for employment”.
Meanwhile, provisions for Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, Karnataka, and Goa are addressed under Articles 371D, 371E, 371J and 371I.
In the case of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, Article 371D was reportedly substituted by the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014 when the state was divided for the formation of Telangana. The law granted the President of India with powers to ensure the "equitable opportunities and facilities in public employment and education" to people in all parts of the states.
The provisions for Karnataka are similar. "There is a provision for the establishment of a separate development board for the Hyderabad-Karnataka region, the working of which will be reported annually to the Assembly. There shall be “equitable allocation of funds for developmental expenditure over the said region”, and “equitable opportunities and facilities” for people of this region in government jobs and education," the report quoted the Article as saying.
Article 371A, which pertains to Nagaland, states that no act of Parliament shall apply to the state in respect of the religious or social practices of the Nagas, its customary law and procedure, administration of civil and criminal justice involving decisions according to Naga customary law and ownership and transfer of land and its resources. It shall apply to Nagaland only after the state Assembly passes a resolution to do so, the law says.
Article 371B deals with special provision with respect to the State of Assam. Reportedly, the main objective of inserting Article 371B was to facilitate the creation of the sub-state ‘Meghalaya’ in 1969. The law grants powers to the President of India to "provide for the Constitution and functions of a committee of the state Assembly consisting of members elected from the tribal areas of the state".
Article 371C deals with special provisions with respect to Manipur which became a state in 1972. For Manipur, the law states that the president can entrust “special responsibility” to the Governor to ensure the proper functioning of a "committee of elected members from the Hill areas of the state in the Assembly".
Article 371F provides the Assembly of Sikkim with the power to elect a representative of the state in the Lok Sabha. "To protect the rights and interests of various sections of the population of Sikkim, Parliament may provide for the number of seats in the Assembly, which may be filled only by candidates from those sections," the law states.
For Mizoram, Article 371G lays down laws that are similar to the ones accorded to Nagaland. The provision curbs the Parliament's powers so that it cannot formulate laws on "religious or social practices of the Mizos, Mizo customary law, and procedure, administration of civil and criminal justice involving decisions according to Mizo customary law, ownership and transfer of land… unless the Legislative Assembly so decides”.
Article 371H of Constitution of India makes special provision with respect to the Arunachal Pradesh. The law states, "The Governor of Arunachal Pradesh shall have special responsibility with respect to law and order in the State of Arunachal Pradesh."
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Sep 09, 2019 14:58:59 IST