Scroll Top

LEGISLATIVE REFORMS IN LAKSHADWEEP VIS-A-VIS RIGHTS OF THE PEOPLE

INTRODUCTION

Last year, amid the growing concern of COVID-19 and its effects such as the disruption of the economy, increasing unemployment, and the migration of people from one state to another, India’s smallest union territory Lakshadweep faced some serious legislative reforms which posing set of issues for the people living there. Lakshadweep islands are one of the remotest parts of India, unlike their eastern fellows Andaman and Nicobar Islands which are considered tourist spots.

WHAT IS HAPPENING IN LAKSHADWEEP?

Former BJP minister and administrator of Lakshadweep islands, Praful Khoda Patel introduced 4 legislations in February 2021 which include “Lakshadweep Animal Preservation Regulation, 2021[1]”, “Lakshadweep Panchayat Regulation, 2021[2]”, “Lakshadweep Prevention of Anti-social Activities Regulation, 2021[3]”, “Lakshadweep development authority regulation, 2021[4]”. When these reforms were introduced, people staged their protest on Twitter through hashtags suggested as #savelakshadweep to show their discontentment and anger which was a result of the aforementioned reforms and laws enforced by the government. There was a lot of outrage among the people all over the territory. Now what are these four laws, what are their effects and how they are affecting the rights of the people, let’s understand them briefly.

“The Lakshadweep Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Regulation, 2021”

“The Lakshadweep Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Regulation, 2021”, also known as the “Goonda Act” gives many powers to the hand of the administrator. Some of them are:

  • A person can be detained for up to one year to prevent him from doing an act that would disturb public order. This detention will continue even if one or more grounds of that person’s detention are irrelevant, unconnected, vague, or not closely connected with such a person or not valid for any other reason.
  • A person would be considered a “goonda” or someone who is doing activities that would disturb the public order if he’s engaged in any kind of activities as a drug dealer or traffic offender or illegal property taker or dangerous person or money lending offender or sexual offender which can have the capacity to disturb the public peace.
  • An administrator can have the power to authorize any police officer to enter a vehicle, house or any property to check or seize any material they think has been used for illegal activities.

WHAT IS THE ISSUE?

It is surprising to see these types of regulations cause the crime rate in Lakshadweep to be very low as compared to other areas of India. According to National Crime Records Bureau, criminal cases have not crossed the mark of 200 for the last four years, and for two years it is even lower than 100. Hence people are seeing this regulation as a way to suppress them and violate their right to freedom of speech and expression.

The new law is further in contradiction to article 22[5] of the constitution which provides the fundamental right of protection against arrest and detention. In simple terms, it states that a person cannot be detained in a custody without knowing a reason for such arrest, and he cannot be denied the right to consult or choose the legal practitioner of his choice to defend him.

Lakshadweep Animal Preservation Regulation, 2021

The main aim of The Lakshadweep Animal Preservation Regulation 2021 is to restrict NBN this slaughtering of certain animals which includes cows, bulls, bullocks, male and female buffaloes, and their calves.

  • It says that no animal can be slaughtered unless permission has been taken from the competent authority in writing as a certificate that the animal is fit for slaughter.
  • Such a certificate cannot be provided in the case of a cow, its calves whether male or female and bull or bullock.
  • No certificate can be granted in the case of an animal that is suitable for breeding, yielding milk, and agricultural purposes.
  • The rule also restricts, buying, selling, or storing of beef and beef products. A person who is found doing these things can be punished with a jail turn of 10 years or a fine of up to 5 lakhs.

WHAT IS THE ISSUE?

Under “article 48[6]” of the Indian constitution, the state is empowered to make efforts for preserving and improving the breeds and restricting the slaughter of cows and calves. It also empowered the state to improve agriculture and animal husbandry. But all of these come under the directive principle of state policy which is not legally enforceable though fundamentally important for the governance of the country. So, governments, before making any such law have to keep in mind that it cannot be imposed on the people. No, let us understand what Supreme Court says on the issue of cow and cattle slaughtering.

“Mohd. Hanif Qureshi v. State of Bihar, 1958”[7]

It was not the first time that such laws have been introduced. There are many states and union territories where such types of laws are already in existence in some way or another. The first challenge to this law occurred in this case where the petitioner argued against these laws as his livelihood was based on the trade of beef. Supreme Court held that it is not possible to impose a complete ban on beef because there are several communities such as Muslims, Christians, Schedule cast, and Schedule tribes that consume beef as their daily diet.

“All India Jamiatul Quresh Action Committee v. Union of India, 2017”[8]

This case again looked up the issue of a ban on cow and cattle slaughter. In this case, Supreme Court rejected a government order which proposed a complete ban on the trade of cattle beef or cattle that is going to be slaughtered. Supreme Court highlights the importance of the Meat and leather industry working in India employing lakhs of people and how banning it can affect the livelihood of many people India is one of the largest exporters of beef in the world and the total ban on it can affect the lives of people who are associated with it.

Lakshadweep Town and Country Planning Regulation, 2021

The Lakshadweep Town and Country Planning Regulation, 2021 provides many land vision powers to Lakshadweep administrators through the formation of luxury planning and development authority.

  • It says that the Lakshadweep administration can change or occupy any land owned by any person on the union territory for development.
  • It gives the power to punish any person who creates hindrance in the development process and the punishment may be a fine which can be 10,000 rupees or imprisonment for a term of up to two months.
  • Power is in the hand of the planning and development authority who may if they think that the person is not entitled to occupy the property under the final scheme, evict a person who continues to occupy that land.

LEGAL ISSUES

The state cannot at its own will evict, alter or occupy the land of any person. It is provided in “article 300A[9]” of the Indian constitution as the right to property. Although it is not a fundamental right it is still a constitutional right and the right of citizens to defend their property is still protected under “article 14”[10] as the right to equality and “article 21”[11] as to life and personal liberty. Let’s understand this with some Supreme Court judgments.

“Padmamma v. S. Ramakrishna Reddy, 2008”[12]

In this case, the petitioner argued that his property has been illegally taken by the defendant and defended himself by pleading “article 300A”[13]. Supreme Court held that though this is not a fundamental right it is the right of every citizen to have authority over their property and the same cannot be taken forcefully by any other person.

“Delhi Airtech Services Pvt. Ltd. & Ors. v. State of U.P. & Ors, 2009”[14]

In this case, Supreme Court observed the indispensable right of every human and the right to safeguard their property by any authority whether government or person. If these rights are protected only then can our constitution be flourished.

CONCLUSION

The newly reformed laws try to alter many aspects of individuals and society. Any regulation should be made in accordance with the demographic and ecological needs but these reforms had tried to bring sudden turmoil in democratically ruled union territory which people see as the government’s way to suppress their rights and freedom.  People living there also tried to protest peacefully like a 12-hour hunger strike against the administration’s unilateral decision to bring these legislations. They demanded that these laws are bought without considering the needs of the people and should be repealed immediately. Therefore, the people of Lakshadweep are not against the government or the administration but against the laws that they have made which sounds illogical and irrelevant considering the ground reality of the island.

Author(s) Name: Anant Gupta (Dharmashastra National Law University, Jabalpur)

References:

[1] https://www.telegraphindia.com/topic/lakshadweep-animal-preservation-regulation-2021

[2] https://theprint.in/india/these-are-the-3-lakshadweep-draft-laws-that-have-triggered-controversy/667336/

[3] Ibid 2

[4] Ibid 2

[5] The Constitution of India, 1950, Art. 22

[6] The Constitution of India, 1950, Art. 48

[7] 1958 AIR 731 (1959) SCR 629

[8] Writ Petition(s)(Civil) No(s).000422/2017

[9] The Constitution of India, 1950, Art. 300A

[10] The Constitution of India, 1950, Art. 14

[11] The Constitution of India, 1950, Art. 21

[12] AIR 2008 SC 2834

[13] Ibid 4

[14] AIR 2012 SC 573, JT 2011 (9) SC 440, 2011 (9) SCALE 201