It is highly unfortunate, but not surprising, that the directives from the apex court of the country – the Supreme Court of India – are routinely taken for granted by Government of Nagaland (GoN). However, it also symptomatic of the manner in which rule of law and governance are viewed in the state.

Three pertinent instances can be cited here. The state was among the 25 states and union territories (Its) in India which were yet to respond SC’s directive for information about the number of criminal cases pending against their MPs/MLAs and whether the cases have been “transferred to the Special Courts set up in pursuance to its December 2017 order to try them.”

The Supreme Court had directed the Chief Secretaries of all the states, including Registrars General (RGs) of the High Courts, to furnish details of the criminal cases pending against the MPs and MLAs. However, the details are yet to reach the Supreme Court.

Reportedly a total of 3,816 criminal cases were registered against 1,765 MPs and MLAs across the country, of which 3,045 cases are said to be still pending. There are 4,896 lawmakers in parliament and assemblies of which 1765 are under scanner.

Apart from maintaining its ‘impeccable’ record of electing no woman legislature in the Assembly, the 13th Nagaland Assembly elections in 2018 also achieved another milestone- the number of MLAs with “declared serious criminal cases” increased from 1-2 from the previous house.

According to the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), which compiled the data, the cases include “Criminal breach of trust, Criminal breach of trust by public servant, or by banker, merchant or agent etc.” Both are from the ruling People’s Democratic Alliance (PDA) government – one each from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) respectively.

The information has placed before it by October 10, the next date of hearing, the SC’s September 12 order said.

The GoN’s compliance with another SC’s directive regarding police reforms, is at best, partial and confusing. While the government has not brought in a new police act, it claims to follow the SC’s directives partially, at least on paper, as per the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI).

Among others, the directive includes, establishing State Security Commission (SSC), which the Nagaland State seems to have established a State Security Commission (SSC) through a notification in 2007. As highlighted in The Morung Express report recently, the SSC is meant to “ensure that the State Government does not exercise unwarranted influence or pressure on the state police.” While the Leader of Opposition on this Commission though it has no independent selection panel, is not empowered to give binding recommendations and does not produce annual reports as it ought to. This makes the GoN “non-complaint” to the SC’s first directive, as per CHRI’s data.

Regarding the directive on guidelines for Selection and Tenure of a DGP, GoN claimed to be the only state in India to “fully comply.” However, since it is not fully complying with the first directive, it is unclear how it “fully” complies with the second, the report highlighted. Given the regular tussles and controversies over the appointment of State’s police chief, the compliance of the directive on police reforms, at best, is defective.

The apex court has also given the GoN till October 1 “to file a Compliance Report on steps to be taken to control hate crimes and mob lynching in the State.”

The Order to this effect— an extension of a principal judgment passed on July 17 this year—was passed on September 24 and include – issued preventive, remedial and punitive measures that States need to follow to curb hate crimes and mob violence.

These measures were to be carried out “within four weeks” of the judgment by the Central and State governments, and reports of compliance to be filed within the same period before the Court. Sticking to its precedent, it was among 9 States and 3 Union Territories that have not submitted the compliance reports according to SC Order of September 24, CHRI said.

Is plain ignorance, callousness or lack of importance given to the issues? Either way, the state’s credibility takes a beating after each order. The present situation demands stringent mechanisms to ensure that the SC’s orders are taken seriously and complied with, concurrently with governance and rule of law.

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