The Union Territory (UT) of Lakshadweep is an archipelago of 36 islands off the Kerala coast; it is one of the smallest Union Territories of India, with a meagre population of around 65,000. The majority of the population follows Islam, but their religious practices are pretty unique and almost exclusively limited to the Union Territory. The islands are considered a single Union Territory, and the administrative control is in the hands of an Administrator, who takes decisions on behalf of the President of India. The present Administrator, Mr Praful Khoda Patel, has been in the news recently because of his new proposals, which he claims aim to ensure the welfare of people and secure peace and stability to the islands. The islanders have sternly opposed these regulations stating that there is no logic behind introducing them. If implemented, they would threaten the natural state of order and infringe the islanders’ most basic fundamental rights. This article aims to decipher the new proposals, scrutinize these proposals’ feasibility, and suggest whether to implement them.
Animal Preservation Regulation, 2021
The primary purpose of the Animal Preservation Regulation is to ban slaughter of all sorts of animals unless the person performing it has a certificate from the competent authorities to do such an act. Section 5(2) clearly states that these certificates are not valid for the slaughter of a cow, a calf of a cow, a bull or a bullock. The Regulation also states that no certificate can be granted for the slaughter of animals that can be used for agricultural operations, breeding or bearing offspring. Section 8 of the Regulation prohibits any selling, keeping, transporting, buying or exposing of beef or beef products. Residents of the UT have sternly opposed this proposal. The majority Muslim population of the islands have stated that such proposals infringe their fundamental right to life and liberty and are against their natural eating habits. Beef is a normal part of their diet, and imposing such sanctions would be arbitrary. Various political parties have also joined in the protests alleging that the Administrator did not consult local bodies before drafting the Regulation and is promoting his own party’s agendas by issuing such a Draft. However, the ban on slaughter is not the only issue plaguing this Regulation. The punishment, as specified under section 10(2), states that any person convicted for the offence of slaughtering an animal without the certificate, or any person convicted of slaughtering a cow, a calf of a cow, a bull or a bullock shall be imprisoned for life. Such a heavy penalty for a meagre offence of slaughtering an animal is not logical, and it clearly shows the perverse nature of the authorities. It also violates the fundamental right to carry out any occupation, trade or business. Several states have banned such a practice, however, there is no precedent for such a stringent punishment, nor is there any logic behind introducing such a provision. A sound conclusion that can be made for the Regulation is that although the state must endeavour to prohibit cow slaughter as per Article 48 of the Directive Principles of State Policy, it should be based on logic and support from the people. Since there are eight states which still do not have a cow slaughter ban in their territory, the UT Administrator should take cognizance of the facts and should retrieve this Regulation on account of the vehement opposition expressed by the citizens of the UT.
Lakshadweep Panchayat Regulation, 2021
According to Article 243(b)(2), every state/UT in India should constitute a Panchayat at Village and District level. Article 243(f)(1)(b) states that any member of the Panchayat can be disqualified from being elected to the Panchayat as per any law made by the state legislature. The Lakshadweep Administration, following the above-mentioned, drafted the Lakshadweep Panchayat Regulation, 2021. This Regulation aligns with the existing laws and policies of the country. However, one of the clauses is quite controversial considering the demography of the island. Section 14(1)(n) mentions the disqualification of members of Gram Panchayat or disqualification from election to Gram Panchayat if the person has more than two children. A population control measure is not unconstitutional as per entry 20A in the Concurrent List of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution. There are numerous precedents available on this issue; 12 states have enacted similar regulations for their respective Panchayats. The Supreme Court has also validated this policy in the case of Javed vs State of Haryana. The court clearly stated that the policy is based on “intelligible differentia” and that the aim is to control population growth. The critical point to note here is that the validation of a particular policy is wholly based on the fact of whether it does any public well or not. In the present case if one were to look at the fertility rate of the islands, then, according to NFHS-5, the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) of Lakshadweep is 1.4 (rural) which is way less than the national average of 2.2. The TFR is 1.6 (urban) which is 0.2 less than the TFR of NFHS-4. Thus, decreasing fertility rate in the islands—along with the ageing population—is a sign to contain this decrease in TFR rather than adding to its further deterioration. The administration should also consider people’s opinions before adopting this policy as there are widespread protests against this Draft. In conclusion, the Lakshadweep administration should understand the grave implications that the two-child policy could have on the future of the islands. Experts have time and again noted that coercive family planning policies have enormous negative impacts on the demography of a particular geographical location. Notwithstanding the backward mindset of people who still prefer a boy over a girl, this could lead to hundreds of unsafe abortions which could be fatal to the already fragile health conditions of the islanders.
Draft Lakshadweep Development Regulation Authority, 2021
The Draft Lakshadweep Development Regulation Authority, 2021 (LDRA) mentions the scope for various development projects on the island which, according to some, is not a necessity of the inhabitants—the indigenous people of the island. The locals protest that they require more boats and not overhead bridges or outrageous infrastructure. Insofar as the demand for more boats is concerned, it seems valid as Lakshadweep is a satellite territory of India. It needs enough transportation facilities to remain connected to the Indian mainland.
Although the proposed Regulation provides opportunities for growth and development in the region, it also creates an environment of scepticism concerning the land rights of the people living on the island. The LDRA states that the government, i.e., the ‘Administrator’ in this context, can declare any area in Lakshadweep as a “planning area”. Once an area of land is designated as a planning area, then a Planning and Development Authority will be constituted, which will further carry out the implementation of the development plans according to the prescribed rules and regulations. Another prominent criticism the LDRA faces is that although the existing Land Acquisition Act provides for a resettlement scheme for families that get displaced due to these development plans, the new Development Regulation does not promise any such resettlement areas or plans unless notified in the development plan.
Another concern is that the LDRA can be used arbitrarily. Section 29 acts as an umbrella provision. According to this provision, if the land is marked for a development program, it will be deemed that it has been allocated for public purposes, which according to the Kerala High Court, in the case of Ayana Charitable Trust vs State Of Kerala, should be decided on a case-by-case basis. Legal remedies are provided for in the Regulation only if the development plan is inconsistent with the LDRA. Other than that, the development plan cannot be discussed in any legal proceedings whatsoever. These, in a nutshell, show the intent of the Regulation. Prima facie, it seems that provisions of the LDRA have been brought to engulf the land for corporate needs, and if the people want to oppose that, they do not have a legal remedy.
Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Regulation, 2021
The Draft of the Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Regulation, commonly known as the Anti-Goonda Act, is being criticized by the elected representatives of Lakshadweep as being archaic and draconian since it gives immense power to the Administrator of the island territory. One of the arguments made by the Administrator is that such kinds of laws are necessary for governance. He said that he wants to develop the island on the lines of the tourist destination Maldives and that it is essential to prevent the anti-social elements of the society, and, therefore, the Regulation was necessary.
However, the agenda seems to be different as we noticed that numerous legislations were presented just after Mr Praful Patel took charge as the Administrator of Lakshadweep. For example, The Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation, 2021, which involves the acquisition of land by the authority, has already triggered protests and people may resist its implementation. Like a few other tourist destinations, the island’s development seems to be far-fetched. This Draft acts as an aid for other reformative legislation to cope with the deterrence it may cause. The Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Regulation, if passed, could be used to suppress any protests since it can be widely interpreted and could be used at the desire of the Administrator. The Rules of the Draft clearly mention that a person can be detained for up to one year if the Administrator is satisfied that the person can act in a prejudicial manner and can abrupt public order.
In conclusion, the plethora of new policies introduced by the Administrator of the islands, which he considers to be reformative and necessary for governance and development of the UT, seem to be contrary to the moral intentions of the Administrator. As has been established above while discussing four of the many controversial policies, they are arbitrary, and there is a perverse intention behind introducing such draconian policies. The islanders are resolutely protesting against these policies in a bid to safeguard their basic fundamental rights. Many politicians and activists have also raised concerns over these policies and have registered their protest at the Parliament of India. Now, it is time for the President of India to step in and resolve this conflict earnestly, since he must safeguard the basic human rights of the citizens of this country. The President should recall the Administrator immediately and should repeal such arbitrary policies, which have no place in a democratic country like ours. The Central Government should understand that such petty politics and propaganda-pushing would only result in public disorder. They should be wary of introducing such legislation, which could potentially destabilize the peace and prosperity of the Union Territory.
Sourav Kumar Jha and Harsh Parakh are first-year B.A., LL.B. (Hons.) students at National University of Study and Research in Law, Ranchi, India.
Suggested citation: Sourav Kumar Jha and Harsh Parakh, Unexplained Nuances of Lakshadweep Draft Regulations, JURIST – Student Commentary, July 6, 2021, https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2021/07/jha-parakh-lakshadweep-draft-regulations/.
This article was prepared for publication by Viraj Aditya, a JURIST staff editor. Please direct any questions or comments to him at email@example.com