Leh and Kargil have separate Autonomous Hill Development Councils, set up under the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Councils Act, 1997.
- When Jammu and Kashmir was bifurcated into two Union Territories on August 5, 2019, Ladakh was seen welcoming the reorganisation.
- As it turned out, that statement papered over Ladakh’s concerns, and the different demands from its two districts, Leh and Kargil. These demands have come to the fore at different times over the last two years.
Autonomous Hill Development Councils
- Leh and Kargil have separate Autonomous Hill Development Councils, set up under the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Councils Act, 1997.
- However, the AHDCs have no legislative powers.
- The councils are elected, and have executive powers over the allotment, use and occupation of land vested in them by the Centre, and the powers to collect some local taxes, such as parking fees, taxes on shops etc.
- But the real powers are now wielded by the UT administration, which is seen as even more remote than the erstwhile state government of J&K.
- Last year, as the five-year term of the Leh Ladakh AHDC neared conclusion, and elections were scheduled, a group calling itself the People’s Movement for Sixth Schedule, an umbrella of political parties and religious organisations including the all-powerful Leh-based Ladakh Buddhist Association, put forth its demand for an autonomous hill council under the Sixth Schedule, modelled on the lines of the Bodoland Territorial Council in Assam.
- The Sixth Schedule is a provision of Article 244(A) of the Constitution, originally meant for the creation of autonomous tribal regions in Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura.
- Hill councils under this provision have legislative powers.
Back to Basics
Administration of the Scheduled and Tribal Areas
- Article 244 in Part X of the Constitution envisages a special system of administration for certain areas designated as ‘scheduled areas’ and ‘tribal areas.’
- The 5th Schedule of the Constitution deals with the administration and control of scheduled areas and scheduled tribes in any state except the four states of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura.
The Sixth Schedule
- The Sixth Schedule of the Constitution consists of provisions for the administration of tribal areas in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram, according to Article 244 of the Indian Constitution.
- Passed by the Constituent Assembly in 1949, it seeks to safeguard the rights of tribal population through the formation of Autonomous District Councils (ADC).
- ADCs are bodies representing a district to which the Constitution has given varying degrees of autonomy within the state legislature.
- The Governors of these states are empowered to reorganise boundaries of the tribal areas.
- In simpler terms, she or he can choose to include or exclude any area, increase or decrease the boundaries and unite two or more autonomous districts into one.
- They can also alter or change the names of autonomous regions without a separate legislation.
Autonomous districts and regional councils
- Along with ADCs, the Sixth Schedule also provides for separate Regional Councils for each area constituted as an autonomous region.
- In all, there are 10 areas in the Northeast that are registered as autonomous districts – three in Assam, Meghalaya and Mizoram and one in Tripura.
- These regions are named as district council of (name of district) and regional council of (name of region).
- Each autonomous district and regional council consistsof not more than 30 members, of which four are nominated by the governor and the rest via elections. All of them remain in power for a term of five years.
- The Bodoland Territorial Council, however, is an exception as it can constitute up to 46 members.
ADCs empowered with civil and judicial powers
- The ADCs are empowered with civil and judicial powers, can constitute village courts within their jurisdiction to hear trial of cases involving the tribes.
- Governors of states that fall under the Sixth Schedule specifies the jurisdiction of high courts for each of these cases.
- The councils are also empowered to make legislative laws on matters like land, forests, fisheries, social security, entertainment, public health, etc. with due approval from the governor.
- The roles of the central and state governments are restricted from the territorial jurisdiction of these autonomous regions.
- Also, Acts passed by Parliament and state legislatures may or may not be levied in these regions unless the President and the Governor gives her or his approval, with or without modifications in the laws for the autonomous regions.
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