Analysis: Article 371

Reading time: 5-6 minutes.         

With the abrogation of Article 370 (i.e. the temporary provision with respect to the State of Jammu and Kashmir) of the Indian Constitution, there were various concerns being raised on the possible annulment of Article 371, which includes ‘special provisions’ for 11 states. The people of North-Eastern states were misinformed and misguided regarding the possibility of dilution of Article 371. But, while addressing the 68th plenary session of the North East Council as well as the Lok Sabha, the Union Home Minister allayed the fear and assured that the Centre will not  abrogate Article 371 of the Indian Constitution. He assured that the present government does not have any intention to remove the provision.

What is Article 371 of the Indian Constitution?

Article 371 is covered under part XXI (Temporary, Transitional and Special Provision) of the Indian constitution. Part XXI has Articles 369-392. Articles 370, 379-391 have already been repealed. Article 371 specifically deals with special provisions for the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat which further accommodated 371A to 371J (mostly for North-Eastern states). Article 371A to Article 371J gives special provisions for the states of Nagaland, Assam, Manipur, Andhra Pradesh, Sikkim, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Goa and Karnataka. The brief description of the various provisions is:

Article-371 – With the special status to the state of Maharashtra and Gujarat, the provision mandates creation of separate development boards for areas like Vidarbha, Marathwada, Sourashtra, Kutch and the rest of the Gujarat with allocation of funds and equitable arrangement and adequate facilities under the control of the State Government.

Article 371A: This Article provides special provision with respect to state of Nagaland. Parlaiament is prohibited to enact any law on religious and social practices and customary law and procedure of Nagas. The Governor of Nagaland is given special responsibility with respect to law and order in the state of Nagaland. The Parliament can’t legislate on administration of civil and criminal justice involving decisions on Naga customary law. Also, no Indian laws of punishment would be applicable there, all the administration would be done according to their laws and practices and so would be the land transfer laws. Moreover, the Governor of that state would be having responsibility to look into any conflict that would be arising between the laws and practices of the local tribal people of that area.

Article 371B: This Article deals with special provision to state of Assam which mandates dealing with tribal rights as it empowers the President to include a committee of the elected tribal representatives of the Assam Legislative Assembly for the constitution.

Article 371C: This Article deals with special provisions to state of Manipur covering the special rights to people of Hilly areas.

Article 371D: This Article deals with the state of Andhra Pradesh with respect to equitable opportunities and facilities for the people belonging to the state and other employment related issues to particular part or tribe of the state.

Article 371E: This article again provides special provision to Andhra Pradesh for establishment of central University in the state.

Article 371F: This Article deals with the special provision to the state of Sikkim. It outlines  various measures to obtain economical and social advancement of different sections of people of the state along with their identity.

Article 371G: This Article deals with special provision with respect to the state of Mizoram. It states that Parliament cannot decide in respect of religious and social practices of Mizos, Mizo customary law and procedure, administration of civil and criminal justice involving decisions according to Mizo customary laws and ownership and transfer of land.

Article 371H: This Article deals with special provision with respect to the state of Arunachal Pradesh particularly focuses on the functions of the Governor and special law and order arrangement.

Article 371I: This Article deals with special provision with respect to the state of Goa citing minimum strength of Goa assembly which should not be less than 30 members.

Article 371J: This Article deals with special provision with respect to the state of Hyderabad -Karnataka region. This provision focuses on establishment of separate development boards, equitable allocation of funds and equitable opportunities and facilities for the people belonging to Hyderabad-Karnataka region.

What are the reasons for incorporation of Article 371?

The intention of granting special status under Article 371 is to preserve the religious and social practices of these states, to protect the cultural and economic interests of these regions and safeguard the region’s culture, language, and ethnic diversity. Article 371 is incorporated mainly to meet the unique needs of the backward regions of these states, to combat the local challenges and protect the customary laws and procedure in these regions and to deal with the disturbed law and order in some parts. Also one of the reasons of incorporation was to provide equal opportunities and facilities in the educational and employment field to the people belonging to the state.

Differences between 370 and 371 

Article 370 and 371 were part of the Indian constitution at the time of its commencement on January 26, 1950 and subsequently Article 371A to 371J were incorporated. Article 370 dealt with ‘Temporary provisions with respect to the State of Jammu and Kashmir’. On the other hand, Article 371 grants ‘Special provisions with respect to some states of the Indian Union’. Article 370 was clearly temporary in nature. Article 371 is about special provisions in the various states of India. Although both the provisions were state specific, but Article 370 covered only one state i.e. Jammu and Kashmir whereas Article 371 covers 11 states of India. Articles 371, 371A, 371B, 371C, 371D, 371E, 371F, 371G, 371H, 371I and 371J define special provisions with regard to another state (or states).

With the rising apprehensions on abrogation of Article 371, the assurance given by the Union Home Minister on the non-revocation of Article 371 can be considered as a positive step in safeguarding the rights of the people of backward areas in North-Eastern states. The special provisions under Article 371 and Article 371A-371J of the Indian Constitution are specifically in view of progress and for the upliftment of the minority groups in various states. Since many of the provisions of Article 371 were introduced to prevent exploitation of local people on recommendation of bureaucrats and local politicians, the abrogation of these special provisions would be considered as undemocratic and violative of fundamental rights. The annulment of Article 371 will lead to a major downfall in the progress of the state with the escalation of poverty, illiteracy, unemployment and crime rate.

In conclusion

It can be concluded that these provisions are inalienable as these provisions individually take into account a wide range of specific safeguards and preserve the tribal culture. These provisions are essential in order to provide the constitutional remedies for various socio-economic challenges. Therefore, protection of the privileges under these provisions becomes very important for the states. All these provisions cater the needs of special circumstances that exist in those areas and help in promoting peace and harmony.

-This article is brought to you in collaboration with Ayushi Negi from Symbiosis Law School, Noida.

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