In the wake of massive protests in the Northeast over the Citizenship Amendment Act, several references have been made to the Inner Line Permit Sytem in large parts of the region. On December 19, the Meghalaya Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution urging the Centre to implement Inner Line Permit in the state. Earlier on December 11, the inner line permit regime was extended to Manipur with President Ram Nath Kovind signing the order to this effect. The concept of the Inner Line Permit comes from the colonial area. Under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation Act, 1873, the British framed regulations restricting the entry and regulating the stay of outsiders in designated areas.
The system is in force in four Northeastern states — Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Mizoram and now Manipur — and no Indian citizen can visit any of these states unless he or she belongs to that state, nor can he or she overstay beyond the period specified in the ILP. In addition, the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution provides for the administration of tribal areas in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram to safeguard the rights of the tribal population in these states.
The origin of sixth schedule can be traced back to policy of exclusion of the British Government in the colonial period. Under the Govt. of India Act, 1935, the hill areas of Assam were divided into two categories-Excluded and Partially Excluded Areas and remained outside the process of development. After Independence, there were demands for regional autonomy and better status within the constitutional framework from the tribes of the hill areas of Assam. The Interim Government of India was sensitive to the political aspirations of the tribal people of the hill areas of Assam in the background of assurances given by the outgoing British rulers. An advisory committee on Fundamental Rights of Minorities in the Tribal Areas was constituted in May 1946 by the Constituent Assembly of India. One of the sub-committees constituted by the Advisory Committee was the Northeast Frontier (Assam) Tribal and Excluded Areas Sub-Committee under the chairmanship of Assam Premier, Gopinath Bordoloi. The recommendation made on the basis of the observation made by the subcommittee became the substance of the sixth Schedule. After independence these areas got special administrative machinery in the form of the Sixth Schedule which provided for District and Regional Councils for administration of these erstwhile excluded areas. These institutions were expected to integrate these areas with the modern system of administration while preserving the traditional autonomy and local self-governing institutes of the tribal people. The provision of six schedules however resulted in violence, displacement and loss of trust between different communities.
The Sixth Schedule of the Constitution deals with the administration of the tribal areas in the four northeastern states of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram as per Article 244.
The governor is empowered to organise and re-organise the autonomous districts.
If there are different tribes in an autonomous district, the governor can divide the district into several autonomous regions.
Composition: Each autonomous district has a district council consisting of 30 members, of whom four are nominated by the governor and the remaining 26 are elected on the basis of adult franchise.
Term: The elected members hold office for a term of five years (unless the council is dissolved earlier) and nominated members hold office during the pleasure of the governor.
Each autonomous region also has a separate regional council.
Powers of councils: The district and regional councils administer the areas under their jurisdiction. They can make laws on certain specified matters like land, forests, canal water, shifting cultivation, village administration, inheritance of property, marriage and divorce, social customs and so on. But all such laws require the assent of the governor.
Village councils:The district and regional councils within their territorial jurisdictions can constitute village councils or courts for trial of suits and cases between the tribes. They hear appeals from them. The jurisdiction of high court over these suits and cases is specified by the governor.
Powers and functions:The district council can establish, construct or manage primary schools, dispensaries, markets, ferries, fisheries, roads and so on in the district. It can also make regulations for the control of money lending and trading by non-tribals. But, such regulations require the assent of the governor. The district and regional councils are empowered to assess and collect land revenue and to impose certain specified taxes.
Exceptions: The acts of Parliament or the state legislature do not apply to autonomous districts and autonomous regions or apply with specified modifications and exceptions.
The governor can appoint a commission to examine and report on any matter relating to the administration of the autonomous districts or regions. He may dissolve a district or regional council on the recommendation of the commission.