Salient Features of the 13th Amendment of the Constitution

The Constitution (Thirteenth Amendment) Act of 1962, which was passed as the Constitution (Thirteenth Amendment) Bill, was annexed with a Statement of Objects and Reasons.

The State of Assam included Nagaland as a tribal region. The Naga People’s Convention leaders and the Indian government reached an agreement in July 1960 to include Nagaland as a state in the Indian Union.

The Agreement, among other things, states that:

  • the Governor of the State of Nagaland would be specifically responsible for maintaining law and order as long as hostile actions are causing the situation to be unstable;
  • General oversight of the finances provided to the new State by the Indian government rests with the governor;
  • For 10 years, the governor of Nagaland will oversee the administration of the Tuensang District, after which time it is anticipated that locals would be able to take on greater administrative duties. For the aforementioned Tuensang District, a Regional Council made up of elected representatives from the local tribes would be established. The activities of the Village, Range, and Area Councils in that district shall be supervised and governed by this Regional Council, and no law made by the Nagaland legislature will apply to that area unless it is recommended by the Regional Council;
  • Acts of Parliament shall not apply to Nagaland unless the Nagaland Legislature so determines concerning:
  • Naga customary law and process;
  • Religious or social activities of the Nagas;
  • Administration of civil and criminal justice including decisbydance with Naga customary law; and
  • Ownership and transfer of land and its resources.

What law applies here?

It is a result of the Indo-Lanka Accord of July 1987, which President J.R. Jayawardene and then-Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi signed to end the ethnic conflict between the armed forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the organisation that led the fight for the Tamil people’s self-determination and sought a separate state.

The 13th Amendment, which resulted in the formation of Provincial Councils, ensured a power-sharing structure to enable all nine provinces in the nation to exercise self-government, including regions with a majority of Sinhala speakers. The provincial administrations have been granted more authority over areas including education, health, agriculture, housing, land use, and police, but they have not made much progress due to limitations on their budgetary authority and the President’s veto power. Particularly, the clauses about the police and the land have never been put into practice. The North-Eastern Provincial Council was created when the north and east provinces were initially combined, however, it was disbanded in 2007 as a result of a Supreme Court decision.

Why is it in dispute?

The country’s civil war period left the 13th Amendment with a lot of baggage. Both the LTTE and Sinhala nationalist parties vehemently opposed it. The Tigers believed it to be too little power, while the former believed it to be too much power to share. A significant portion of the Sinhala political establishment viewed the Accord and the ensuing laws as a legacy of Indian meddling, particularly the leftist-nationalist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), which launched a violent uprising against it.

It was largely viewed as an imposition by a neighbour with hegemonic control, even though it was signed by the powerful President Jayawardene. The 13th Amendment is not considered sufficient by the Tamil polity, particularly its strong nationalist strain, either in terms of its scope or content. However, some, especially the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), saw it as a crucial beginning point and something to build upon. The TNA mostly represented the Tamils of the north and east in Parliament during the post-war era until its defeat in the most recent elections.

What position do the Rajapaksas take?

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa have not yet offered any comments on the Amendment. Mahinda Rajapaksa made several promises to execute the 13th Amendment and go even farther than its provisions during his two stints as president, which lasted for a decade starting in 2005. This promise of “13 plus” became well-known during this time. Although the organisation of the historic Northern Provincial Election in 2013 was a positive development, his administration was hesitant to give up control over property and the police.

Why is the Thirteenth Amendment important?

The 13th Amendment is now the sole clause in the constitution that addresses the long-standing Tamil topic. In addition to ensuring some decentralisation, it is seen as one of the few notable developments during the 1980s in response to the Sinhala-Buddhist majoritarianism that has been present since Sri Lanka gained independence in 1948.

References

https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/the-hindu-explains-what-is-the-13th-amendment-to-the-sri-lankan-constitution-and-why-is-it-contentious/article32531844.ece

https://www.india.gov.in/my-government/constitution-india/amendments/constitution-india-thirteenth-amendment-act-1962

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