Article 371A of the Constitution of India
Article 371A of the Constitution of India is a special provision which has been given to the state of Nagaland. It was inserted in the Constitution in 1963 as a part of an amendment which amended article 170.
1A. Special provision with respect to the State of Nagaland —
(1) Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution, –
(a) no Act of Parliament in respect of –
(i) religious or social practices of the Nagas,
(ii) Naga customary law and procedure,
(iii) administration of civil and criminal justice involving decisions according to Naga customary law,
(iv) ownership and transfer of land and its resources, shall apply to the State of Nagaland unless the Legislative Assembly of Nagaland by a resolution so decides;
Shall apply to the State of Nagaland unless the Legislative Assembly of Nagaland by a resolution so decides.
The above provisions make Article 371A similar to Article 370 of the constitution. However there is one major difference is that Article 370 is a temporary provision whereas 371A is a special provision.
In essence, the Article 37A was enforced to alleviate the apprehensions of the Naga people that once the Constitution of India is enforced in Nagaland it will become a threat to their traditional way of living. In order to understand the reason of subsistence of this article we have to understand the history of the formation of this state.
Formation of Nagaland –In 1929, a memorandum was submitted to the Simon Statutory Council. The memorandum requested that the reforms and taxes which are brought under effect by the British need not be enforced in Nagaland. The reason for the above request was given as poverty in the state and also the lack of unity among the various tribes in the Naga Hills. Also, it was said that no one pays for administration and that only thing holding people together was British Rule. If the reforms were undertaken and taxes were levied the Naga people will not be able to pay them. In order to pay these taxes they will have to resort to selling their lands and slowly their identity will be stolen from them. Other reforms we also feared to interfere with their customary traditions which they respect and follow happily.
The House of Commons decreed that Naga Hills be kept out of the purview of The Government of India Act, 1935. This meant that Naga Hills will be outside the administration of Government of India. Soon after this area was brought under direct administration of the crown through a representative of the Queen; Governor of Assam.
In 1946, the Naga National Council earlier known as the Naga Club submitted a four point proposal to the committee which was discussing Independence of India from British Colonial Rule. The proposal protested that merger of Assam as a part of Bengal and asserted that Naga Hills should be constitutionally included in an autonomous Assam, in a free India, with local autonomy, due safeguards and separate electorate for the Naga tribes.
Again in 1946, the Naga National Councilsubmitted a memorandum to British Cabinet Mission stating, in essence, that “Naga future would not be bound by any arbitrary decision of the British Government and no recommendation would be accepted without consultation”. Surprisingly after 1946, Naga National Council started demanding a separate nation and an absolute right to live independently.
After Independence, the area remained a part of Assam Province. Phizo, who was the leader of Naga National Council, urged the Naga tribes to become one and fight for an independent Nagaland. This movement led to widespread protests and violence and forced the hand of Jawaharlal Nehru to send the army to restore order in the troubled area.
In 1960, after discussion between Prime Minister Nehru and the leaders of the Naga People Convention (NPC), a 16-point agreement was arrived at whereby the Government of India recognized the formation of Nagaland as a full-fledged state within the Union of India. The provisions mentioned in the Article 371A were a part of these 16 points.
Succinctly, this act prohibits Parliament to enact any law on religious and social practices of Nagas, Naga customary law and procedure. It also says that Parliament can’t legislate on administration of civil and criminal justice involving decisions on Naga customary law. Also no Parliament act on ownership and transfer of land and its resources.