Friday, June 18, 2021
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The Governor’s Prerogative

Ever since the advent of institutionalized corruption in Nagaland, in the early 1980s, Nagas have been harping about our unique rights under Article 371A(I)(a). We have used this article and its subsections to cover every sin under the sun, that we commit. Corruption does not mean the act of misusing or extorting money alone, every act of illegality comes under corruption, for when one breaks the law in any manner, one corrupts the law of the land. And when I talk about institutionalized corruption, it includes the politicians and bureaucrats using the state exchequer and its funds like their personal banking account, “Freedom Fighters’ claiming they have the right to tax everyone and everything, unions and associations being formed to enrich their office bearers and colony, ward and village councils governing like mini dictatorships . All this has led to a catastrophic breakdown in Law and Order in Nagaland.

Now our Honourable Governor, Mr. R. N. Ravi, I.P.S. (Rtd.) has decided to exercise his unique power under Article 371A(1)(b) in an attempt to curb this rampant lawlessness. So, what exactly does Article 371A(1)(b) state and what are its implications? The final interpretation of laws will be a matter for the Courts to decide, but I give the text of the article in italics, and what I opine they mean.

Article 371A(1)(b) the Governor of Nagaland shall have special responsibility with respect to law and order in the State of Nagaland for so long as in his opinion internal disturbances occurring in the Naga Hills Tuensang Area immediately before the formation of that State continue therein or in any part thereof and in the discharge of his functions in relation thereto the Governor shall, after consulting the Council of Ministers, exercise his individual judgment as to the action to be taken:

The above quote has three parts:-

  • The Governor of Nagaland, unlike the governors of other States of India, has a direct say in matters concerning law and order in the State of Nagaland.
  • This responsibility/power resides with the Governor for as long as he deems that the internal disturbances (insurgency) prior to December 1st. 1963 continues in any part of the Naga Hills Tuensang Area (presently Tuensang, Mon, Longleng and Kiphirie). Since no part of Nagaland has ever been free of insurgency since statehood, this power still resides with the Governor.
  • That in the exercise of his special power, the Governor will consult the Council of Ministers about any measures he wishes to take, but his personal decision will be final and binding.

Provided that if any question arises whether any matter is or is not a matter as respects which the Governor is under this sub clause required to act in the exercise of his individual judgment, the decision of the Governor in his discretion shall be final, and the validity of anything done by the Governor shall not be called in question on the ground that he ought or ought not to have acted in the exercise of his individual judgment:

This quote, too, has three parts:-

  • The Governor has the right to decide which matter falls under his responsibility for maintaining law and order. Examples being, if the Governor feels that any government official is hampering or obstructing the maintenance of law and order, he is free to suspend or transfer the concerned official, as he sees fit; or if he feels that any work/project being undertaken or neglected could cause problems with the maintenance of law and order, he can order the work stopped or undertaken as he deems fit.
  • The Governor’s judgement and decision on these matters is final and unquestionable.
  • The Governor’s personal judgement alone matters.

Provided further that if the President on receipt of a report from the Governor or otherwise is satisfied that it is no longer necessary for the Governor to have special responsibility with respect to law and order in the State of Nagaland, he may by order direct that the Governor shall cease to have such responsibility with effect from such date as may be specified in the order;

The conclusion clearly states that only if the President orders the Governor that these powers and responsibilities have ceased, will they be inoperative. But the Governor has to first report to the President that such powers are no longer necessary, before the President can issue such an order. This may seem like a Catch 22 situation, but it is necessary, because the Governor is the man on the front line and giving him the power to exercise his individual judgement will be worthless if he is always under threat of having his powers taken away without his knowledge or consent.

Many Nagas have been fighting against institutionalized corruption in Nagaland on many fronts. Our appeals have been ignored and our cries unheard. Litigation has been the only recourse for the victims of injustice. But litigation is expensive and time consuming.

I thank our Almighty Lord and our Honourable Governor for giving us another avenue for appeal against the multiple injustices that Nagas face on a daily basis. Such a decision can only have been taken by a man of unquestionable principles and integrity. I urge all the people of Nagaland to come out in support of our Honourable Governor’s decision to apply Article 371A(1)(b).

Kahuto Chishi Sumi

Akukau, Hevishe Village, Khaghaboto Range, Dimapur

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