The Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed the Nagaland government's decision to cancel the local body elections in the State with 33 per cent reservation for women which was mandated by the top court earlier.
A bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Ahsanuddin Amanullah also issued notice to the State government in the contempt proceedings in this regard.
The Central government's reply was also sought with regard to the prayer of the original petitioners seeking deployment of central paramilitary forces in the State.
"The order of this Court dated 14.03.2023 despite making it clear that any endeavour to tinker with the local elections now would be in breach of the orders of the Court either by the Election Commission or the State Government. Notice both to the Election Commission and to the State Election Commission. Notice also be issued qua the other prayers as also to the Central Government in view of the prayer 2 made in para D for adequate Central Force. In the meantime, the order dated 30.03.2023 cancelling the election programme is stayed", the Court ordered.
The contempt proceedings will now be heard on April 17.
The bench made it clear that the Court could not allow defiance of its earlier orders in this regard.
"This is contempt. How can they do this? Please tell them this is not possible, we will not allow this", Justice Kaul told the counsel for Nagaland, advocate K Enatoli Sema.
Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for the petitioners, had mentioned the contempt plea today, filed through advocate Satya Mitra.
"The Nagaland government has cancelled the [local body] elections. This happened as the CM said we are only conducting it because of this Court, but will not go against the will of the people. 3 groups are opposing."
The order came on a petition moved by activist Rosemary Dzuvichu and the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) challenging a resolution passed by the Nagaland State Assembly on September 22, 2012, which exempted the operation of Part IX-A of the Constitution that mandates 33 per cent reservation for women in local bodies in the state.
In 2016, the above resolution was withdrawn by the Nagaland Assembly, even as the reservation is yet to be implemented.
The hearing in the matter has been a protracted one. In April last year, the Supreme Court had granted a final opportunity to the Nagaland government to report on how it proposes to implement the reservation.
The lackadaisical attitude of the State was lamented. In July, the Court criticised the Nagaland government and the State Election Commission (SEC) for the delays, remarking that it had lost faith in the State government.
In the last hearing on March 14 this year, the SEC had told the Court that the polls will be held on May 16, soon after the State assembly elections.
However, on March 30 it cancelled the notification of the same citing the opposition from some tribal pressure groups.
This move has now been stayed by the top court.