Top News

Wednesday, Aug 05, 2020 13:30 [IST]

Last Update: Wednesday, Aug 05, 2020 07:49 [IST]

Significance of Article 371 F of the Constitution of India for Sikkim

Dr. KR CHAKARAVARTHI
Former Head, Dept. of Political Science, Sikkim GovtCollege(NBBD College), Tadong,
Principal (Retired), Government College,Rhenock

Sikkim was an independent country until its merger with the Indian Union. The political System was based on monarchy. The sovereign authority and political power were vested with the Chogyal - the Maharaja of Sikkim. The Durbar was assisted by a "State Council" whose members were partly elected and partially nominated based on adequate representation to the three ethnic communities viz. Bhutia, Lepcha and Nepali. The laws of Sikkim were promulgated by royal proclamations and were traditional in accordance with the customs, conventions and traditions of the people of Sikkim. In the year 1974 Sikkim was made an associate State of India under an Amendment Act 1974 of the  Union Parliament of India.
The Amendment Act, 1975 to the Constitution of India (passed by the Union Parliament) and a referendum of the people made Sikkim as one of the states of the Indian federal polity. Though there existed cordial relation between Sikkim and India before its merger, Sikkim had no significant role in the freedom movement of India. Since its inception into the Indian union by a referendum and an Amendment act, 1975( w.e.f. 26 April 1975), the state of Sikkim has been given a special constitutional status under article 371F of the Constitution of India in order to preserve, protect, safeguard the identity, interests and rights of the people of Sikkim. The Constitutional status of Sikkim is clearly defined and extended to protect the state of Sikkim under article 371 F of the Constitution of India. It runs as follows:“371F. special provisions with respect to the
State of Sikkim. Not withstanding anything in this constitution:-
(a)    the Legislative Assembly of the State of Sikkim shall consist of not less than thirty members;
(b)    as from the date of commencement of the Constitution (Thirty sixth Amendment) Act, 1975 , (hereafter in this article referred to as the appointed day)
(i) the Assembly for Sikkim formed as a result of the elections held in Sikkim in April, 1974 with thirty two members elected in the said elections (hereinafter referred to as the sitting members) shall be deemed to be the Legislative Assembly of the State of Sikkim duly
(ii)    the sitting members shall be deemed to be the members of the Legislative Assembly of the State of Sikkim duly elected under this Constitution; and
(iii)    the said Legislative Assembly of the State of Sikkim shall exercise the powers and perform the functions of the Legislative Assembly of a State under this Constitution;
(c)    in the case of the Assembly deemed to be the Legislative Assembly of the State of Sikkim under clause (b), the references to the period of five years in clause ( 1 ) of Article 172 shall be construed as references to a period of four years and the said period of four years shall be deemed to commence from the appointed day;
(d)    until other provisions are made by Parliament by law, there shall be allotted to the State of Sikkim one seat in the
House of the People and the State of Sikkim shall form one parliamentary constituency to be called the parliamentary constituency for Sikkim;
(e) the representative of the State of Sikkim in the House of the People in existence on the appointed day shall be elected by the members of the Legislative Assembly of the State of Sikkim;
(f)    Parliament may, for the purpose of protecting the rights and interests of the different sections of the population of Sikkim make provision for the number of seats in the Legislative Assembly of the State of Sikkim which may be filled by candidates belonging to such sections and for the delimitation of the assembly constituencies from which candidates belonging to such sections alone may stand for election to the Legislative Assembly of the State of Sikkim;
(g)    the Governor of Sikkim shall have special responsibility for peace and for an equitable arrangement for ensuring the
social  and economic advancement of different sections of the population of Sikkim and in the discharge of his special responsibility under this clause, the Governor of Sikkim shall, subject to such directions as the President may, from time to time, deem fit to issue, act in his discretion;
(h) all property and assets (whether within or outside the territories comprised in the State of Sikkim) which immediately before the appointed day were vested in the Government of Sikkim or in any other authority or in any person for the purposes of the Government of Sikkim shall, as from the appointed day, vest in constituted under this the Government of the State of Constitution;Sikkim;
 (i)    the High Court functioning as such immediately before the appointed day in the territories comprised in the State of Sikkim shall, on and from the appointed day, be deemed to be the High Court for the State of Sikkim;
(j)    all courts of civil, criminal and revenue jurisdiction, all authorities and all officers, judicial, executive and ministerial, throughout the territory of the State of Sikkim shall continue on and from the appointed day to exercise their respective functions subject to the provisions of this Constitution;
(k)    all laws in force immediately before the appointed day in the territories comprised in the State of Sikkim or any part thereof shall continue to be in force therein until amended or repealed by a competent legislature or other competent authority;
(l)    for the purpose of facilitating the application of any such law as is referred to in clause (k) in relation to the administration of the State of Sikkim and for the purpose of bringing the provisions of any such law into accord with the provisions of this Constitution, the President may, within two years from the appointed day, by order, make such adaptations and modifications of the law, whether by way of repeal or amendment, as may be necessary or expedient, and thereupon, every such law shall have effect subject to the adaptations and modifications so made, and any such adaptation or modification shall not be questioned in any court of law;
(m) neither the Supreme Court nor any other court shall have jurisdiction in respect of any dispute or other matter arising out of any treaty, agreement, engagement or other similar instrument relating to Sikkim which was entered into or executed before the appointed day and to which the Government of India or any of its predecessor Governments was a party, but nothing in this clause shall be construed to derogate from the provisions of Article 143;
(n) the President may, by public notification, extend with such restrictions or modifications as he thinks fit to the State of Sikkim any enactment which is in force in a State in India at the date of the notification;
(o) if any difficulty arises in giving effect to any of the foregoing provisions of this article, the president may, by order, do anything (including any adaptation or modification of any other article) which appears to himto be necessary for the purpose of removing that difficulty: Provided that no such order shall be made after the expiry of two years from the appointed day;
(p) all things done and all actions taken in or in relation to the State of Sikkim or the territories comprised therein during the period commencing on the appointed day and ending immediately before the date on which the Constitution (Thirty sixth Amendment) Act, 1975, be deemed for all purposes to have been validly done or taken under this Constitution as so amended”
The above provisions of the article 371F (a) to (p) of the Constitution of India relating to Sikkim reveals the following significant features. It safeguards the rights and the interests of the people of Sikkim origin.
To allot not less than 30 members in the Sikkim Legislative Assembly (at present 32 members) which should have been according is article 170 of the Constitution of India not less than 60 members. The members of the State Council elected in the year 1974 were allowed to continue till 1979 even after Sikkim's merger with India. Also allotment of one seat each (from Sikkim) to both LokSabha and RajyaSabhawas made in the Union Parliament of India.
The Governor of Sikkim under article 371F (g) is vested with special responsibility for the maintenance of peace and for equitable arrangement.  It is also for ensuring social and economic advancement of different sections of the population. 
The property and assets previously vested in the Government of Sikkim or any authority under it within and outside Sikkim came to be vested with the Government of Sikkim.
Yet another importance of the provisions of the article 371F is that the protection that has been afforded by the laws and acts - which were in existence in the State of Sikkim prior to merger of Sikkim shall be safeguarded. The sanctity of "old laws" will be safeguarded and continued.
The President of India may by public notification extend to Sikkim with necessary modifications any enactment which is in force in any other State of India. Any action on the part of the President of India to bring any such law must   be in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution of India. The sub section 371F (n) Stipulates that the President shall extend it with modifications as he thinks fit to the state of Sikkim (within 2 Years of merger). Even with regard to removal of difficulties, the same has to be done within a period of two years.
Article 37IF (a) to (p) were made effective to the state of Sikkim from 26th April 1975 i.e. the appointed day. It stands for promoting communal harmony and peace in Sikkim. Every year16th May is observed as the State Day of Sikkim.
However, the above provisions of this article do not command the same status as that of Jammu and Kashmir does under article 370 of the Constitution of India.   Some may oppose to these special provisions   guaranteed under article 371F of the Constitution of India for the State of Sikkim. If opposed,  it may cause insecurity to the border state namely Sikkim.  Sikkim is a newly born   state of India.
The constitutional safeguards under371F do   protect and promote emotional integration of   Sikkim with the Indian Union. This would rather mean a new beginning for Sikkim and she would no longer remain isolated from the national mainstream. It would lead Sikkim   for a greater participation with other states in the policy making at the national level. In fact,   inclusion of Sikkim as one of the eight members of the North Eastern Council and the safeguards under article 371F would help assist the state  to  promote  all round development.
Abrogation of article 370 of the Constitution of India relating to the state of J & K along with 35 A shall not directly affect the sanctity and constitutional safeguards   extended to Sikkim under article 371F. Political parties in Sikkim keep article 371F as one of the basic tenets in their election manifests. Therefore, article 371F is not  only a constitution within the Indian Constitution but remains as a 'Great Charter' for the state of Sikkim.

(This article was earlier published in Sikkim Express vol. XXXIII, June 3-5,1998,p3.  Rewritten now.)

Sikkim at a Glance

  • Area: 7096 Sq Kms
  • Capital: Gangtok
  • Altitude: 5,840 ft
  • Population: 6.10 Lakhs
  • Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 to over 28,509 ft above sea level
  • Climate:
  • Summer: Min- 13°C - Max 21°C
  • Winter: Min- 0.48°C - Max 13°C
  • Rainfall: 325 cms per annum
  • Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi