Context: In a video message, the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha promised to implement Article 244 (A) of the Indian Constitution to safeguard the interests of the people in Assam’s tribal-majority districts.
How did the demand arise?
- In the 1950s, a demand for a separate hill state arose around certain sections of the tribal population of undivided Assam. After prolonged agitations, Meghalaya gained statehood in 1972.
- The leaders of the Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hills were also part of this movement.
- They were given the option to stay in Assam or join Meghalaya.
- They stayed back as the then Congress government promised more powers, including Article 244 (A).
- Since then, there has been a demand for its implementation.
What is Article 244(A) of the Indian Constitution?
- Inserted into the Constitution by Twenty-second Amendment in 1969, Article 244(A) empowers Parliament to enact a law for constituting an autonomous State within the State of Assam in certain tribal areas and also to provide the autonomous State with Legislature or a Council of Ministers or both with such powers and functions as may be defined by that law.
How is it different from the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution?
- The Sixth Schedule of the Constitution — Articles 244(2) and 275(1) — is a special provision that allows for greater political autonomy and decentralized governance in certain tribal areas of the Northeast through autonomous councils that are administered by elected representatives.
- The Sixth Schedule which applies to the Tribal Areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram, provides for autonomy in the administration of these areas through Autonomous District Councils (ADCs) and the Regional Councils empowered to make laws in respect of areas under their jurisdiction, which cover land, forest, cultivation, inheritance, indigenous customs and traditions of tribals, etc. and also to collect land revenues and certain other taxes.
- ADCs are like miniature states having specific powers and responsibilities in respect of all the three arms of governance: Legislature, executive and judiciary.
- In Assam, the hill districts of Dima Hasao, Karbi Anglong and West Karbi and the Bodo Territorial Region are under the Sixth Schedule.
- Article 244(A) accounts for more autonomous powers to tribal areas. Among these the most important power is the control over law and order.
- In Autonomous Councils under the Sixth Schedule, they do not have jurisdiction of law and order.