The Manipur Village Authorities (In Hill Areas) Act, 1956

The Parliament passed the Manipur Village Authority (in Hill Areas) Act, 1956, for the administration of the hill areas in the State of Manipur.   “Hill Areas” are such areas in the hill tracts including the entire ‘Plain Areas’ that lies within the jurisdiction of Hill Districts of the State of Manipur should also be given for its definition in tune with the geo-political and legal term of the phrase as per Article 371C of the Constitution of India. The Act was implemented in 1957 and was enacted with a purpose where in the tax-paying houses were determined on the basis of number of members in a village authority. Members of the village authority varied according to tribal customary laws and traditional practices and usages. The Manipur Village Authority (in Hill Areas) Act, 1956 limited the power of members by introducing provision for election of members of village authority incase when not nominated by Deputy Commissioner of the District.

After the enforcement of The Manipur (Village Authorities in Hill Areas) Act, 1956 the election of members of village authority was to be conducted on the basis of adult franchise and the Manipur State Hill People (Administration) Regulation 1947 was repealed thereafter. Prior to the enforcement of the Act the village chief nominated the members of the village authority as per the provisions of Hill People Regulation 1947. For the purpose of administration of the Act, the Manipur Hill area was divided into seven hill areas.

Section 3 of the Manipur Village Authority (in Hill Areas) Act, 1956 sets the limitation to the number of Village Authorities in the village. Villages having less than twenty houses are not liable to pay taxes. The section is not very logical since villages having less number of houses can have higher acquisition over land rather than villages having more number of houses. Another disadvantage of the provision is that there shall be dominance of a larger village over a smaller village having less than twenty houses. The Chief Commissioner under section 57 sub clause (1) sub sub clause (2) shall make rules only after publication in the Official Gazette.  Under Sub-section (2) of Sec. 3 the Deputy Commissioner (DC) has no authority to declare a village under this Act. The DC has no power to constitute a new village or divide a village, and the Government is the only competent authority to declare a village under the Act. The Manipur (Village Authority in Hill Areas) (Second Amendment Bill) 1993 was introduced in the Legislative Assembly was published in the Manipur Gazette July 29, 1993.

Act under Section 8 empowers the Deputy Commissioner to remove any member of village authority from his office however the district courts shall be the only competent courts to punish a person committing non bailable offence in contravention of the provisions of the Act. Provided that the State Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, invest any Court sub-ordinate to a District Court with jurisdiction in any class of cases, and any Court so invest shall within the local limits of its jurisdiction having concurrent jurisdiction with the District Court under this Act.

The functions of the village authorities shall be to implement schemes made by the government for poverty eradication, recognising beneficiaries for poverty alleviation schemes, supervise developmental works, help government agencies, receive grants and utilise the same for public works, provide securities for loans by village residents, to constitute Village Development Committee, to help statutory council in carrying out developmental works, to assist central and state government in carrying out of various schemes and to review departmental works within a the village and report to the Block Development Officer.

Thus we can say that the Act was the first step towards democratisation of hill administration in Manipur by appointing village authorities appointed by villagers. By giving voting rights to the villagers the duty to elect suitable person as member of village authority was being inculcated and also to make them learn the power of voting.

by Vibhuti Nakta.