Highlights of the Bill
- The Constitution (One Hundred and Seventh Amendment) Bill, 2007 and the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2007 seek to amend the Constitution to include Gorkha Hill Council, Darjeeling in the Sixth Schedule.
The Sixth Schedule provides for the creation of autonomous District Councils in certain tribal areas of the North-Eastern states. The Bill seeks to form a District Council for the hill areas of Darjeeling in West Bengal called the Gorkha Hill Council, Darjeeling (GHC).
All District Councils have the power to make laws on a range of subjects such as the allotment of land, use of water course, and inheritance of property. The GHC has the power to make laws on 45 additional subjects such as agriculture, education and transport.
The laws made by GHC cannot nullify the existing rights and privileges of any Indian citizen, including land rights, if such citizen is otherwise eligible to acquire land within that area.
Key Issues and Analysis
Due to the prevailing situation in Darjeeling, the Standing Committee was unable to verify facts on the ground. Therefore, it accepted the views of the central and state governments and recommended that the Bills be passed with some amendments.
- The original purpose of the Sixth Schedule was to provide autonomy to the predominantly tribal areas of north-east India. Thirteen per cent of the people living in Darjeeling district belong to Scheduled Tribes.
- Scheduled Castes constitute 16 per cent of the total population of Darjeeling. The Standing Committee has recommended reservation for Schedule Castes and women in the GHC.
- The Bill does not address any of the structural issues highlighted by various official reports related to the Sixth Schedule.
The powers devolved to the District Councils are not identical. An expert committee has recommended that the minimum powers should be stated in the Constitution.