Women empowerment comes by education, political participation, says SC on Nagaland urban local body polls

New Delhi, April 17 : The Supreme Court on Monday observed that women empowerment comes by education and also through political participation, while asking the Centre to clarify whether the constitutional scheme of one-third reservation for women in municipality and town council elections can be violated by Nagaland.

A bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Aravind Kumar noted that a period of male domination had existed in every society, and the judiciary needs to give a push if the political dispensation fails to act. It stressed that women empowerment comes by education and also political participation.

Emphasising it is a women empowerment issue, the bench noted that to evade an undertaking given to it, an ingenious method has been adopted regarding holding of the elections by repealing the Nagaland Municipal Act 2001. Earlier this month, the top court stayed the March 30 notification cancelling, till further orders, the election to the ULBs (urban local body) in Nagaland which were slated for May 16.

The state government counsel cited apprehension about violence in the polls and stressed that they want to have a consensus and find a solution in the matter expeditiously. The bench said for 18 years, there were no elections to ULBs and questioned, should elections not happen due to threat of violence?

The top court said it is an issue of women empowerment, however state government counsel contended that the government is not against reservation. At this, the top court observed that the state did not want a women quota and it is repeatedly coming up with some issue to stall the elections.

Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, representing the petitioners, submitted that the municipal act has been repealed. At this juncture, the bench asked the Centre’s counsel, what is the stand of the Union of India?

Additional Solicitor General K.M. Nataraj, representing the Centre, submitted that a notice was issued to the Centre to ensure that adequate central forces are sent to the state for elections. The bench then observed: “You cannot let a part of the country evade the constitutional scheme.”

The Nagaland government contended that several groups have called for a boycott of the elections and, against this backdrop, the purpose of holding the polls would be defeated.

The bench told the state government counsel, “To us it appears to be a men and women issue. For how long will this section of society (women) wait?”

After hearing detailed submissions, the top court gave Centre two weeks’ time to bring on record its response in the matter.


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