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Ladakh, Article 371, and the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution


Ladakh, Article 371, and the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution

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  • In a meeting with representatives from Ladakh, which has been witnessing protests recently, Union Home Minister Amit Shah offered to extend Article 371-like protections to the region.
  • The Leh Apex Body (ABL) and the Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA) were told that their concerns related to jobs, land, and culture would be taken care of, but the government would not go as far as to include Ladakh in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.

What is the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution?

  • Following the repeal of Article 370 in August 2019 and the subsequent enactment of the Jammuand Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019, Ladakh has been recognised as a separate Union Territory “without legislature”. UTs like New Delhi and Pondicherry have their own Legislative Assemblies.
  • Ever since the separation, organizations like the ABL and the KDA have demanded that Ladakh be included under the Sixth Schedule. This Schedule contains provisions regarding the administration of tribal areas in the states of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram.
  • Inclusion under this Schedule would allow Ladakh to create Autonomous District and Regional Councils (ADCs and ARCs) — elected bodies with the power to administrate tribal areas. This would include the power to make laws on subjects such as forest management, agriculture, administration of villages and towns, inheritance, marriage, divorce and social customs. A majority of the population in Ladakh belongs to Scheduled Tribes.
  • The ADCs and ARCs may also constitute village councils or courts to decide disputes between parties from Scheduled Tribes, and appoint officers to oversee the administration of the laws they enact. In cases where the offences are punishable with death or more than five years of imprisonment, the Governor of the state can confer upon the ADCs and ARCs the power to try them under the country’s criminal and civil laws.
  • The Schedule also gives ARCs and ADCs the power to collect land revenue, impose taxes, regulate money lending and trading, collect royalties from licences or leases for the extraction of minerals in their areas, and establish public facilities such as schools, markets, and roads.

What protections are offered under Article 371?

  • Articles 371 and 371-A through J provide “special provisions” for specific states, often to give representation to certain religious and social groups and to allow these groups to exercise autonomy over their affairs without interference from the state and central governments.
  • Special provisions under Article 371 would allow protections to be extended to the local population of Ladakh, while stopping short of the widespread autonomy that is provided to ADCs and ARCs under the Sixth Schedule.
  • When the Constitution first came into force, Article 371 stood alone, requiring the creation of “development boards” in Maharashtra and Gujarat for certain regions in order to assess their overall development and the need for government expenditure. As new states were created, more special provisions were introduced.
  • Under Article 371-A, which contains provisions related to Nagaland, Parliament cannot enact laws that affect the social, religious, or customary legal practices of Nagas, or the transfer and ownership of land without concurrence from the state Assembly. Similar protections have also been extended to Mizos from Mizoram under Article 371-G
  • Articles 371-B and C allow the creation of special committees in the Legislative Assemblies of Assam and Manipur. These committees comprise MLAs elected from tribal areas and Hill areas respectively.
  • Special provisions have also been introduced to provide reservations in the Sikkim Legislative Assembly (Article 371-F), in order to protect “the rights and interests of the different sections of the population”.
  • Notably, the special provisions for Nagaland, Manipur, Sikkim, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh (371-H), and Goa (371-J) were introduced shortly after each of these states was officially created. If special provisions are introduced for Ladakh, it would be the first time they are introduced for a Union Territory as opposed to a state.
  • Shah reportedly assured the Ladakh delegation that the government would ensure the representation and participation of locals through hill councils and was willing to provide up to 80% reservation in public employment.


Q. How does the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution provide for the administration of tribal areas, and what implications would its extension have on governance and autonomy in regions?