Dialogue  October-December, 2004, Volume 6  No. 2

Sixth Schedule and Working of the District Councils in North-Eastern States

R. N. Prasad

Under the Govt. of India Act, 1935, the hill areas of Assam were divided into two categories-Excluded and Partially Excluded Areas. The Lushai Hills (now Mizoram) the Naga Hills and the North Cachar Hills were under the excluded areas, over which the provincial ministry had no jurisdiction. Expenditure incurred in these hill areas was also not voted by the provincial legislature because there were no representatives from these hill districts. Not only this, even no federal or provincial legislation extended to the districts automatically. The Khasi and Jaintia Hills, the Garo Hills, and the Mikir Hills were partially excluded areas. These districts had five representatives in the Assam Legislative Assembly but in the Garo Hills and the Mikir Hills, the franchise was limited to the traditional village headmen. Briefly, these areas were administered by the state government subject to the special powers of the Governor. This, in fact, did not change the administrative machinery of the districts. In effect the 1935 Constitution did not afford local self government or political autonomy to the hill tribes of the excluded and partially excluded areas to manage their local affairs according to their own genius and ability. No political activities of any kind in these districts were permitted. There was also no political entity, which could voice the people’s aspirations and grievances. The British Superintendent and the local chiefs in most of the districts of the excluded areas used to rule the people as virtual dictators.

After Independence, there were demands for regional autonomy and better status within the constitutional framework from the tribes of

Dr. R.N. Prasad is Professor of Public Administrative, Mizoram University, Aizawl.

the hill areas of Assam. The Interim Government of India in 1947 was sensitive to the political aspirations of the tribal people of the hill areas of Assam in the background of assurances given by the outgoing British rulers. In order to ensure their participation in decision making and management of the affairs and safeguarding tribal interests, the government appointed a Sub-Committee of the Constituent Assembly – the North-East Frontier (Assam) Tribal and Excluded Areas Committee – under the Chairmanship of Gopinath Bardoloi, Chief Minister of Assam. The Bardoloi Committee made an on the spot study of the demands and aspirations of the hill tribes and submitted its recommendations for a simple and inexpensive set-up (District Councils) of the tribal areas, which were later accepted and incorporated into the Article 244 (2) of the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution. The Bardoloi Committee also made provision for Regional Council for the tribes other than the main tribe. This scheme sought to build up autonomous administration (District Councils and the Regional Council) in the hill areas of Assam (United Khasi-Jaintia Hills District, Garo Hills District, Lushai Hills District, Naga Hills District, North Cachar Hills District, and Mikir Hills District) so that the tribal people could preserve their traditional way of life, and safeguard their customs, and cultures. The Committee also recommended the abolition of the excluded and the partially excluded areas and representation of the hills districts in the legislative Assembly on the basis of adult franchise. It expected the state and the central governments to help the tribals in securing the benefits of a democratic, progressive and liberal constitution of the country.

After the Indian Constitution was brought into force, the Government set up an Interim Tribal Advisory Council in each hill district and also desired the participation of the tribal representatives in the administration of the areas, even during the interim period pending the formation of the District Councils. The councils had no statutory basis and the councils used to advise the District Superintendent/Deputy Commissioners on various administrative problems and development schemes of the district. So it was really a training ground for the hill tribes in self governance. Under paragraph 2 of the Sixth Schedule to the Indian Constitution, the Government of Assam farmed the Assam Autonomous District (Constitution of District Councils) Rules 1951 and the Pawi-Lakher ( Constitution of Regional Councils) Rules, 1952 for the autonomous region in the Lushai Hills District. Accordingly, the District Councils and the Regional Councils were constituted in 1952 and 1953 respectively.

After the Mizo Hills was elevated to the status of the Union Territory of Mizoram in accordance with the North-Eastern Areas (Re-organisation) Act, 1971 the Mizo District Council was abolished in 1972. The Pawi-Lakher Regional Council which was constituted for the Pawis, the Lakhers and the Chakmas, was also trifurcated into three District Councils) in 1972 under the provisions of the said Act. The Government of Manipur as per the provisions of the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Councils Act, 1971 passed by the Parliament also constituted six Autonomous District Councils for the tribal people for the hill areas of Manipur. These councils were outside the purview of the Sixth Schedule. Presently the North-East India has, fifteen District Councils – two in Assam, three in Meghalaya, three in Mizoram, one in Tripura and six in Manipur. Here, it is interesting to note that the Nagas, for whom the Sixth Schedule was mainly provided have no autonomous District Councils of their own till date.

Territorial Composition of District Councils

The Sixth Schedule to the Constitution empowers the Governor to determine the administrative areas of the councils. He is also authorized to create a new autonomous district, increase or diminish the area of any existing district, increase or diminish the area of any existing District Councils, unite two or more autonomous districts or parts thereof so as to form one autonomous district, define the boundaries of any district and alter the name of any autonomous district. But such changes in the territorial composition of the autonomous District Councils can be only brought about by the Governor on the report of the Commission appointed for the purpose the paragraph (1) of paragraph 14 of the Sixth Schedule. The Governor of Manipur before issuing such, order, has to consult the Hill Areas Committee. The Administrative areas of the District Councils, however, differ from place to place. For instance, the District Councils in Assam and Meghalaya have been constituted at the district level whereas in Mizoram, the District Councils have been created at both the district and subdivisional levels.

Composition of District Councils and regional Councils

Each District Councils or regional Council provided under the Sixth Schedule is a corporate body by name of District Council or Regional Council of (Name of the District or name of the Region) having perpetual succession and a common seal with the right to sue and be sued. The Councils consists of thirty members, 26 are elected from the single member constituencies on the basis of adult franchise and not more than four persons are nominated by the Governor on the advice of the Chief Executive Member for a term of five years. They are known as MDC (Member of the District Council). The nominated members-normally represent the minorities and unrepresented communi-ties and hold office at the pleasure of the governor. The number of constituencies in each District Councils vary from one another depending on the number of elective seats provided for each council.

The term of District Councils is five years. The Governor may extend the term for a period not exceeding one year at a time, during the national emergency or in event of impossibility of holding of elections.

There is a provision of Chairman and Deputy Chairman in the District Councils who normally preside over the Council sessions. The Chairman and Deputy Chairman are elected by the elected members of the District Councils. The meeting to elect Chairman is presided over either by the Deputy Commissioner or any officer authorised by the Governor. The election is by a simple majority. Those members, who are elected as Chairman and Deputy Chairman need stay in the office at the pleasure and confidence of the District Council. But the rules provide that they may, at any time, resign in writing. They can be removed at any time by a resolution of the Council as provided in the rules.

Functionally, the Chairman and the Deputy Chairman act like the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker of a legislature. The Chairman calls for the meeting of the District Council, presides over the Council in session and regulates the proceedings of the Council. His decision to the conduct of meeting is final. He also admits questions and motions and allows time for the discussion of business. He has a casting vote in case of a tie. In the absence of the Chairman, the Deputy Chairman performs duties. The Chairman is assisted by the Secretary to the Council, who is normally deputed from the state government.

Executive Committee

The rules enacted under the Sixth Schedule provide for an Executive Committee (EC) of the District Council to carry on its executive functions. The EC consists of the Chief Executive Members and two other member. The Chief Executive Member (CEM) is elected by the elected members of the District Council. The two other members of the Executive Committee from among the members of the District Council are appointed by the Governor on the recommendation of the Chief Executive Member. The Executive Committee performs all executive functions of the Council. The Members of the Executive Committee are known as the Executive Members (EM) and the leader is known as the Chief Executive Member (CEM). It is just on the lines of a cabinet system in parliamentary democracy. The District Council is like a miniature government at the district level. There is also a Secretary to the EC appointed by the CEM who is not a member of the District Council. The Chief Executive Member must be elected by the District Council within 48 hours from the date of the removal of the existing committee. If the District Council fails to elect the chief executive member within the fixed period, the Governor may appoint any member of the District Council to be the CEM.

As regards the functions of the Executive Committee, it disposes of all matters falling within its purview. It makes regulations, rules and laws and all appointments with the approval of the District Council. The CEM allocates certain subjects to each executive member to look after; one of them is made in-charge of the district fund or financial affairs of the District Council. It also prepares the budget of the District Councils and gets it passed. The EC is, thus, collectively responsible for all executive orders and policies issued in the name of the District Councils as well as for the implementation of all development schemes in the autonomous district areas. This also implies that when the CEM resigns, the executive committee stands dissolved automatically. It is clear from the provisions of the Sixth Schedule that the civil administration of the autonomous districts is placed with the two authorities viz. Deputy Commissioner representing the state Government and the Executive Committee of the District Councils. The Sixth Schedule has, thus, created two sets of authorities with consequent anomalies overlaps and confusion. 

Legislative functions

The District Councils have powers to make laws for allotment, occupation, use of land, other than reserved forests for purposes of agriculture, grazing and other residential and non-residential purposes; management of unreserved forests, use of water courses and canals for agriculture purpose, regulation of shifting cultivation, establishment of village councils and town committees, administration of village policy, public health and sanitation, appointment and succession of chiefs or headmen, inheritance of property, marriage, divorce and social customs, money lending and trading by non-tribals within the autonomous districts. The Governor has power to alter laws or rules passed by the District Councils, which are in violation of the provisions of the Sixth Schedule. The Sixth Schedule, thus makes the Governor the head of the Autonomous District Council.     

Executive Functions

The District Council has the executive powers to construct or manage primary schools, dispensaries, markets, cattle pounds, ferries, fisheries, roads and waterways. It also prescribes the medium of instruction and manner of education in primary schools within its jurisdiction. The District Council has no legislative or regulatory power over the latter subjects.

Judicial Functions

Para 4 of the Sixth Schedule entitles the Council to constitute Village and District Council Courts in the autonomous areas to adjudicate or try cases or customary laws in which both the parties are tribals. But no case involving offences punishable by death, transportation of life or imprisonment for not less than five years are heard or adjudicated by these courts. The District Council Court and the Regional Council Court are courts of appeal in respect of all suits and cases tried by the Village Council Courts and the Subordinate District Council Courts. No other court except the High Court and the Supreme Court of India have jurisdiction over suits and cases decided by the Council Courts.

Financial Functions

The District and the Regional Councils are responsibility for framing rules for the management of finances with the approval of the Governor. They are also given mutually exclusive powers to collect land revenues, levy and collect taxes on lands, holdings, shops, entry of goods into market and tolls etc within their respective jurisdictions. But the District Council has the concurrent power on the professions, trade, callings, employments, animals, vehicles and huts, tolls on passengers, and goods carried in ferries and maintenance of schools, dispensaries or roads. Under para 9 of the Sixth Schedule, the royalty on the licenses or leases for the extraction of minerals in the autonomous districts goes to the District Council. As regards the tax on motor vehicles, it is assigned and collected by the State Government on behalf of the District Council. Grants-in-aid, loans and advances etc from the state government, constitute other sources of income of the Councils.

The District Councils enjoy autonomy and the Acts of the Parliament and the State legislatures on the subject under them do not normally apply to the autonomous districts. They may be extended there with such exceptions and modifications as are considered necessary by the District Regional Council concerned.

Working of the District Councils

The District councils have elaborate functions/powers in the legislative, executive, judicial and financial domains. These powers are expected to uplift the tribal communities in the domains of primary education, health, culture, social customs, social welfare, forest, land, agriculture, water management, village administration, economic and rural development. However, in practice the performances of the District Councils, have not come upto expectations. Result is that the District Councils have come under severe criticism. Besides the political and functional deficiencies, some provisions of the Sixth Schedule also contribute to the unsatisfactory performance of the Councils. For example the power of nomination is frequently abused for narrow party gains. The concerned Ministers often recommend persons for nomination on political considerations. It is the Minister and not the Governor that nominates persons. At times nominations have been used to reverse the majority in Council to minority. In many District Council areas, ethnic minorities; hardly find any representation in the Councils either by election or by nomination an violation of the provisions of the Sixth Schedule.

Some District Councils have failed to set up courts at village and other levels. The Karbi Anglong District Council could not create judiciary because of reluctance of the State Government to release fund. Most of the courts at the District Councils level manned by reject politicians or people without any judicial background or training. No wonder the judicial performance of these Courts leaves much to be desired. Many District Councils have not yet codified all customary laws in the autonomous districts. Customary laws are hardly observed.

Despite the service rules framed by the Councils, the staffing has no relevance to the necessity. Qualification is no criteria and considerations of political patronage, nepotism and favouritism in the matter of recruitment are rampant in the District Councils. It also adversely impinges on financial resources of the Councils.

Under paragraph 7 of the sixth Schedule, the District Councils have powers to make rules for the District Councils’ finances, taxes etc. The member in-charge of the finance is responsible for the management and control of funds. However, various financial irregularities committed by the councils are conspicuous. The grants-in-aid are misused by diverting under different heads, particularly in non-plan expenditure. Even the basic rules of financial propriety are not observed. Due to overstaffing the establishment expenses, on unproductive trained etc. is unduly heavy Most of the Councils are unable to balance their budgets and often overspend. Mismanagement of public funds was widespread before 1969, when the system of audit by the auditor and comptroller General was introduced.

However even system of audit has failed to control extravagances mainly because under sub-paragraph 2 of paragraph 7, the Governor i.e. the State Government has not made rules for the management of the District Council’s fund. There is need to include in this sub-paragraph a provision that till such time, the Rules are framed rules, framed by the Comptroller and Auditor General, shall apply. A provision need also be made that the accounts of the District Councils can also be audited by the State Government audit agencies.

Another reason for the inadequate performance of the Councils is their dependence on State Governments for financial grants and allotments. However, the District Council has power to levy and collect taxes on profession, trade, callings and employments, animals, vehicles and boats, even within the jurisdiction of the Regional Council (The Regional Council has no such power). The income from such taxes collected from the areas of the Regional Council goes to the District Councils which is unfair. The District Councils neither enforce the tax regulations strictly nor realises the amount efficiently, resulting in meagre tax returns. Generally no attempt is made by the District Council to raise its revenues by exploiting the financial resources available to them.

One of the sources of finance of the District Councils is the share of royalty accruing each year from licenses and leases for the purpose of prospecting for or extraction of minerals granted by the State Government in respect of any area within the District Council. The proceeds from such taxes are shared by the District Council and the State Government in certain agreed ratio. But the District Councils often allege that the share of royalty is not paid to the concerned District Councils regularly by the State Government. Therefore, it is suggested that this power should be given to the councils by amending the sub-paragraph 3 of paragraph 8 of the Sixth Schedule.

Similarly the regional Council has no share in the royalties from licences or leases granted by the State Government for the extraction of minerals within its areas and the proceeds from such taxes are shared by the District Councils and the State Government in certain agreed ratio. This is, no, doubt, unjust and against the norm of economic autonomy or justice. This needs rectification to enable the Regional Council to share such income.

Another major source of income of the District Council is grants-in-aid, it is entitled to under Article 275 of the Constitution of India. The grants to the District Councils are released by State Governments. The State Government, as alleged by the leaders of the District Councils, delay releasing funds to the Councils and such delays are, sometimes, based on political considerations with affecting the normal functioning of the councils. So provision in the Sixth Schedule is required to make it obligatory on the part of the State Government to release the funds within a specified period to the District Councils. The Councils should also submit the utilization certificates of the released grants/accounts to the State Government timely failing which the release of funds should be withheld. The mobilisation of available resources by the District Councils is not satisfactory and they tend to depend on the grants-in-aid from the Central Govt.

The District Councils are empowered to establish, construct and manage primary schools and also prescribe their medium of instructions. Despite these, the rate of literacy among the tribesmen of the District Councils (Karbi-Anglong, North Cachar Hills and Kamala Nagar (Headquarters of Chakma District Council) is low and discouraging. There are many unqualified lower primary school teachers in the most councils. The standard of lower primary education is deterioting day by day. The working of the District Councils in increasing literacy among the poor tribesmen of these areas is very marginal and not upto mark.

The District Council manages primary education and also prescribes a medium of instruction within the jurisdiction of the regional council, which has no power to impart primary education, depriving the minor tribes of the regional Council areas freedom to read and write in their own dialects and languages. Infact, one of the major grievances of the Pawis, the Lakhers and the Chakmas of the Pawi-Lakher Regional Council against the Mizo District Council was on this issue, which, in the long run, compelled these minor tribes to demand separate district councils of their own.

The provisions of the Sixth Schedule suffer from certain short-comings and defects. There is no provision for coordination of the activities of the District Council, the Regional Council and the State Government. The State has no power to review and assess the working of these councils except to approve their legislations by the Governor and to sanction loans and grants for development schemes. As a result, the councils do not surrender the unspent balances of the grants to the State Government. They transfer the amounts for other purposes without proper sanction. Besides lacking expert inputs in developmental matters the leaders of the District Councils do not take interest in plan formulation, schemes and its monitoring at the micro level effect. The Councils have failed to uplift the poor masses.

They are unable to play any significant role in strengthening the planning process at the micro level. As a consequence, the councils have neither been able to do anything of standard in the interest of hill masses nor to involve the poor tribes in development activities either as beneficiaries or as decision makers on any significant scale. In fact, it is shown that the councils have harmed interests of the poor tribes. Within the councils, over a period of time, due to large development funds available, a nexus has emerged between the neo-rich middle class or classes or rich traders, contractors, bureaucrats and educated, who have emerged from within the tribal society of north east India. This emerging socio-economic power structure in the tribal areas does not allow the benefits of the sixth Schedule to flow down to the weaker section of the tribes. The elected members in councils and the office-bearers, who are normally from the elite group of tribal society, have vested interests in preserving the exploitative structure and have created a class which has cornered all the privileges. They have underminded the purpose of the Sixth Schedule to build a democratic edifice for the Councils. The Sixth Schedule has become an alibi for social freeze serving the few at the cost of majority.

It is clear that the power structure, which exists today in our tribal areas, is likely to exploit the poor with or without Fifth and sixth Schedules. If the benefits of the Sixth Schedule have to flow to the poor and if the poor are to be empowered democratically, it is necessary that their position is strengthened by efficient public distribution system (seed banks, grain banks and social security measures), right to work to the tribesmen so as to ensure them minimum employment and incomes to live on, redistribution of assets in favour of the poor by implementing land reforms, and encouraging the role of development bureaucracy and voluntary agencies in rural development. It is further suggested to get the tribesmen of the Sixth Schedule areas involved in development decision-making and implementing process/powers by extending the provisions of the Constitutional (Seventy Third and Fourth) Amendment Acts, 1992 relating to Panchayats and Municipalities to both the rural and the urban areas of the District Councils.

In 1952, the members of the Districts Councils were not allowed to be members of the Legislative Assemblies or Parliament because of holding an office of profit and that the State and the Central Governments had financial interests in the District Councils. But the District Councils persuaded the Ministry of Home Affairs to remove the restriction so that they (especially CEMs and EMs) should become the members of the State Legislative Assembly to develop a better/smooth relations/understanding between the State Government and the District Councils. The People’s Representation Act was amended accordingly. This practice has tended to extend the State politics to the Councils and partisanships discriminations based on party affiliations. The Sixth Schedule and the rules made there underlay down that no person shall be a member of the two District Councils. Similarly, no person should be a member of the two legislative bodies – District Council and the State legislature as it encourages concentration of power in hands of few.

Land management is another weak link of the Councils. The District Councils are empowered to make laws with respect to allotment, occupation or use of land and jhuming to promote the interests of the tribesmen of any village or town. Since the land matters concern the jurisdiction of the District Councils, the land reforms also lie with the councils. The District Councils, briefly, carry on land administration as per customs and traditions of the tribesmen of the Sixth Scheduled areas. The Sixth scheduled prohibits the transfer of land from a tribal to non-tribal. Most of the District Councils have not yet made laws regarding the land holding system in their respective jurisdictions. The basic structure of the customary or traditional system of land tenure remains the same. The District Councils have not been able to protect the common lands or to codify customary system of land tenure and any of other social customs. Where individual ownership of land is recognised, no land reform measures have been initiated. There is no cadastral survey carried out yet. The protection provided by the Inner Line Regulation and the Sixth Scheduled have been used to generate a process of progressive concentration of vast landed property in the form of private ownership in the hands of the emerging local middle class or a small group of well-off tribals. It is aggravating the situation of rural poverty by pushing an increasingly larger section of the real poor, to the margins of landless peasants, farm/agricultural labourers and share croppers. The emergence of private ownership in land leads to exploitative relations in land use and management and thereby perpetuates the existing disparities of wealth and land alienation among the extremely poor tribals. This will certainly disturb social harmony. However, if the situation is to be improved even in a modest way, codification of tribal rights in lands, enactment of laws/regulations concerning the existing land holding system, land reforms and cadastral survey will have to be initiated/implemented effectively as measures of social justice and equity. The tribal land system is more static than dynamic. Rivalry between the State and District Councils also at times presents change. So it is suggested to get the provisions of the Sixth Schedule to enable the Governor to exercise these powers himself, if he is convinced that the council has failed to carry out its tasks as per the provisions of the Sixth Schedule.

The District Councils with measure of stability used to function till the early seventies. Thereafter, both political instability and defections have seriously affected the Councils. It is suggested to amend paragraph 16 of the sixth Schedule to empower the governor to dissolve such Councils. It may be further added that keeping in view the political opportunism displayed by the members of the District Councils in the recent past, anti-defection legislation appears useful. A suitable amendment may empower the Councils to do something positive in this regard.

The Sixth Schedule lays down that no law passed by the Parliament or the State legislature on the matters within the purview of the district is applicable unless the District Council extends its application. Paras 3 (1) 8 and 10 of the Schedule- confer powers on the District Councils to legislate on the subjects enshrined in the Sixth Schedule. But a change has been made in case of Meghalaya and Mizoram by inserting para 12-B in the Sixth Schedule, which gives an overriding character to the acts passed by the State Legislatures. This provision empowers the State government to control the District Councils and takes away all powers conferred on the Councils by para 3 (1), 8, 10. Here the Sixth Schedule seems to be self-contradictory to that extent and also against its being a Constitution within the Constitution of India. This needs to be removed by a proper amendment of the said para 12-B as in para 12. The constitutional (Amendment Act) of 1988 has inserted paragraph 20B (B) in the Sixth Schedule enabling the Governor to exercise discretionary powers to carry out of his functions. But the provision makes it mandatory for the Governor to consult the Council of Ministers. He may thus be influenced by the former in the discharge of his discretionary powers. This needs to be amended in order to safeguard the autonomy of ADC’s.

It is often experienced that some of the functionaries of the District Councils discharge their powers and functions more or less arbitrarily. They also violate acts, rules and regulations for their selfish interests and for the party interests. They also indulge in favouritism and nepotism. They also misuse financial powers and divert funds arbitrarily by violating procedures, rules and regulations, integrating the Sixth Schedule areas economically with the rest of the country. The customary system of land tenure and other protective land regulations to enable to the plains private capital/investors/entrepreneurs to acquire land for the purpose of economic development or for investment on any other public purpose may be codified, modified/liberalised. With the existence of Autonomous District Councils and the, State Governments, the thrust seems to be more on legislation rather than codification. Legislations, no doubt, provides a uniformity in the traditional system rather than codifying the customary laws that vary from tribes to tribes. It may be further added that if the tribal people have to develop according to their genius, land –relations have to be changed radically to keep continuity with egalitarian ethos of tribal traditions.

The Sixth Scheduled has a vague provision that creates a confusion/complication. Paragraph 3(G) of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution of India empowers the District Councils to appoint the succession of Chiefs or headmen but it does not appear clear whether such power covers the abolition of Chiefship as an institution. In 1954, the Government of Assam got an Act passed to abolish Chiefships. The lands under the control of the Chiefs were placed under the control of the District Councils. When the Mizo Hills District was elevated to the status of Union Territory of Mizoram and subsequent to State, the Mizo Hills District Council stood abolished and the lands came directly under the control of the State as the areas of the erstwhile Mizo Hills District council after its abolition also became non-Sixth Scheduled. However, the villages have traditional economic-cum-proto-political jurisdiction, the village authorities (Village Councils) operate as the agents of the State. Had the land been acquired by any Act of the Autonomous District Council, probably, the land would have been under the village communities’ control, as in Nagaland without the proprietory intermediacy of the State, though, Nagaland has never been a Sixth Scheduled area.

The District Council is a product of the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of India. The Schedule, is thus, itself the Constitution within the Constitution of India. The District Council is not created by the State legislature. The provisions of the Sixth Schedule can be amended only by the Parliament. The Autonomous District Council is a body created by the Parliament. The Autonomous District Council is a body corporate and so such, it appears that the council may act independently of the State Legislature. But the position in actual practice is quite different. The Governor being the head of the State is also the head of the District council. He suspends any act or resolution of the District Council which is contrary to the provisions of the Sixth Schedule or likely to endanger the safety of the country or prejudicial to public order and takes such step as he thinks necessary including the suspension of the council. He may assume to himself all or some of the functions and powers of the councils for a period of six months. He may also dissolve the council on the recommendation of an Inquiry Commission to be appointed under para 14 of the Sixth Schedule, which mismanages the affairs of the council. As experiences have shown, setting up of an Inquiry Commission is recommended by the State Council of Minister rather than by the Governor of the State. Such order must be approved by the legislature of the State concerned. The District Councils, before appointment of an Inquiry Commission, is not given a chance or opportunity to place its views before the State Government/State Legislature. Briefly, it may be said that the District Councils as an institution have not protected the socio-economic interests and customs/traditions of the tribesmen because of political pressure/interference/instability, lack of leadership, in fighting among the members of the Councils and various political parties and misuse of powers and funds.

If the District Council is to continue to function in a proper shape and manner required under the sixth Schedule, its autonomy should be restored by scrapping the overriding powers of the State Government, over the District Councils’. Adequate grants-in-aid must be given to them. A provision should be made that mandatory obligation on the part of the State Government is required to make funds available to the District Council in time for its estimated expenditures by amending paragraphs 7 and 13 of the Sixth Schedule. Because of financial difficulties and limited financial resources, most Councils have not yet taken over charge of their many functions such as primary education, set-up of its police force, hospitals and development functions as provided by the Sixth Schedule. The District Councils have failed to evoke local initiative and people’s participation in the development activities to the desired extent. The Councils have hardly brought about the intended social and economic changes in the tribal areas. As S.K. Chaube said; there was a clear paradox in the working of the District Councils. As they failed to utilize their socio-economic potentialities, their attention was diverted to politics and the pretentions of a mini-states. Even the conversion of some of the sixth Schedule areas to the status of full-fledget states do not appear to have resolved the problem fully.

Inspite of these limitations underlying the provisions of the Sixth Schedule this is also true that the District Councils and the regional councils provided under the Sixth Schedule have provided a fair degree of autonomy for the tribal people living in Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur and Mizoram. The real problem has been with its execution an true spirit and intent. Perhaps there is a need to train the members of ADCs in their tasks rather than strangulate their initiatives by amendments giving more power to the State Government. In the same vein the Governor’s discretionary powers need to be insulated from undue influence of the state governments.

Select Bibliography

     1.   Constituent Assembly Debates, Vo-II, Report on the North-East frontier (Assam) Tribal and Excluded Areas Sub-Committee Part-II.

     2.   Constituent Assembly debates Vol-II

     3.   The Constitution of India

     4.   The North-Eastern Areas (Re-organisation) Act, 1971, published in Official Hand Book, Vol-2, Government of Mizoram, Aizawl, 1973.

     5.   The Collection of Mizo Hills District Council’s Acts, Rules, and Regulations.

     6.   The Collection of Pawi-Lakher Regional Council Acts, Rules and Regulations.

     7.   V. Venkata Rao, A Century of Tribal Politics in North-East India, New Delhi, S. Chand and Co.

     8.   R.N. Prasad, Evolution of party politics in Mizoram, (IN) Political Science Review Quarterly Journal of the Department Political Science, University of Rajasthan, Vol-12 No.(3+4) 19, 1973, Jaipur.

     9.   R.N. Prasad, Important features of the Sixth Schedule to the Indian Constitution: An Analysis (IN) Journal of Political Studies, Vol XII, February, 1979, Jullunder (Punjab).

   10.   R.N. Prasad, Government and Politics in Mizoram, New Delhi, Northern Book Centre, 1987.

   11.   R.N. Prasad, District Council: Composition, Powers, Functions, and working (IN) Elements of Indian Constitution (Text Book For Pre-University Education) published by North-Eastern Hill University, Shillong.

   12.   Summary of Pataskar Commission Report on the Hill Areas of Assam, 1965-66.

   13.   S.K. Chaube, Hill Politics in North-East India, Calcutta, Orient Longman, 1973

   14.   Animesh Ray, Mizoram: Dynamics of Change, Calcutta, Pearl Publsihers, 1982

   15.   V. Venkata Rao, H. Thansanga, and Niru Hazarika, A century of Government and Politics in North-East India Vol-3, Mizoram, New Delhi, S. Chand and Co.

   16.   Report of the Committee to Examine Financial Conditions of Each District/Regional Council (Vaghaiwala Committee, Government of Assam, Shillong, 1960)

   17.   L.S. Gassah, Autonomous District Council, New Delhi, Omsons Publications, 1977.

   18.   R.N. Prasad, Modernisation of the Mizo Society; Imperatives and Perspective, New Delhi, Mittal Publications, 2003

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