Governments & Politics of Meghalaya
Like most other states
in India, Meghalaya has a unicameral legislature. The State
Legislative Assembly has 60 members at present. Meghalaya has two
representatives in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of the Parliament
of India; one each from Shillong and Tura. It also has one
representative in the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the
Parliament. The ceremonial head of the State is the Governor
appointed by the Government of India. However, the real executive
powers are held by the Chief Minister.
Meghalaya does not have a high court of its own. The Guwahati High
Court has jurisdiction in Meghalaya. A Circuit Bench of the Guwahati
High Court has been functioning at Shillong since 1974.
In order to provide a
local self governance machinery to the rural population of the
country, provisions were made in the Constitution of India and
accordingly the Panchayati Raj institutions were set up. However, on
account of the distinct customs and traditions prevailing in
erstwhile state of Assam (of which Meghalaya and most of the
Northeast was a part), it was felt necessary to have a separate
political and administrative structure in Assam. Moreover, some of
the tribal communities in the region also had their own traditional
political systems and it was felt that Panchayati Raj institutions
may come into conflict with these traditional systems.
To provide a simple and inexpensive form of local self governance to
the tribal population, the Sixth Schedule was appended to the
Constitution on the recommendations of a sub committee formed under
the leadership of Gopinath Bordoloi. The Sixth Schedule provided for
the constitution of Autonomous District Councils (ADCs) in certain
rural areas of the Northeast including some areas that now fall in
Meghalaya. The Sixth Schedule carries detailed provisions for the
constitution and management of Autonomous District Councils (ADCs)
and laid down the powers of the ADCs. At present Meghalaya has three
ADCs, viz., Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council, Garo Hills
Autonomous District Council and the Jaintia Hills Autonomous
All the three major
ethnic tribal groups, namely, the Khasis, Jaintias and the Garos
also have their own traditional political institutions that have
existed for hundreds of years. These political institutions were
fairly well developed and functioned at various tiers, such as the
village level, clan level and state level. In the traditional
political system of the Khasis each clan had its own council known
as the “Durbar Kur”, which was presided over by the clan headman.
The council or the Durbar managed the internal affairs of the clan.
Similarly, every village had a local assembly known as the Durban
Shnong, i.e. village Durbar or council, which was presided over by
the village headman. These councils or Durbars played an
administrative role in issues of common interest, such as
sanitation, water supply, health, roads, education and conflict
resolution. However, the inter-village issues were dealt with
through a political unit comprising adjacent Khasi Villages. This
political unit was known as the raid. The raid had its own council
the Raid Durbar, which was presided over by the elected headman
known as Basans, Lyngdohs or Sirdars. Above the Raid was a the
supreme political authority known as the Syiemship. The Syiemship
was the congregation of several raids and was headed an elected
chief known as the “Syiem” (or the king). The Syiem ruled the Khasi
state through the State Assembly, known as the Durbar Hima. Most of
the elections were through adult male suffrage.
The Jaintias also had a three tier political system somewhat similar
to the Khasis. The supreme political authority was the Syiem. The
second tier of this structure was the congregation of Jaintia
villages known as Raids. These were headed by “Dolois”, who were
responsible for performing the executive, magisterial, religious and
ceremonial functions at the Raid level. At the lowest level were the
village headmen. Each administrative tier had its own councils or
durbars. Most elections were through adult male suffrage.
In the traditional political system of the Garos a group of Garo
villages comprised the Akhing. The Akhing functioned under the
supervision of the Nokmas, which was perhaps the only political and
administrative authority in the political institution of the Garos.
The Nokma performed both judicial and legislative functions. The
Nokmas also congregated to address inter-Aching issues. There were
no well-organized councils or durbars among the Garos.