HC orders interim stay on Assam-Meghalaya border pact

SHILLONG, 9 Dec: The Meghalaya High Court has ordered an interim stay on physical demarcation or erection of boundary posts on the ground in connection with an interstate border pact signed by the chief ministers of Assam and Meghalaya earlier this year.

Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma and his counterpart Himanta Biswa Sarma had in March signed an MoU, demarcating the border in at least six of the 12 contested locations that often raised tensions between the two states.

Justice HS Thangkhiew ordered the interim stay till the next date of hearing on 6 February, 2023, on a petition filed by four ‘traditional chiefs’ of Meghalaya.

“It is, however, understood that during the intervening period, no physical demarcation or erection of boundary posts on the ground, pursuant to the MoU dated 29.03.2022 shall be carried out, till the next date,” Justice Thangkhiew said.

The ‘traditional chiefs’ in their petition had urged the high court to set aside the MoU signed between the two Northeastern states, claiming that it violated provisions of the 6th Schedule of the Constitution, which deals with special provisions for administration of tribal areas.

They alleged that the MoU was signed “without consulting or taking the consent of or involving the constitutionally recognised native chiefs and their durbars.”

The petitioners also claimed that the pact was “in-principle contrary to the provision of Article 3 of the Constitution, under which Parliament exclusively is competent to alter the area or boundaries of existing states.”

During the hearing, counsel for the ‘traditional chiefs’ P Sharma submitted that, in the event the demarcation is effected physically and boundary marks are placed on the ground pursuant to the MoU, the entire writ petition will be rendered “infructuous,” and the writ petitioners will be without any remedy.

Meanwhile, Advocate General A Kumar said no interim orders are called for at this stage as “firstly, the locus of the petitioner has not been established and further, no irreparable loss would be caused to the applicants/petitioners, in the event the MoU is carried forward.”

“The learned AG is accordingly permitted to file objections to the interim prayer and to the maintainability of the writ petition,” the high court said.

On 29 March this year, the agreement was signed in the presence of union Home Minister Amit Shah by the chief ministers of Assam and Meghalaya.

The pact sought to resolve the protracted dispute in six of the 12 places along the 884.9-km border between the two states.

The boundary dispute between Assam and Meghalaya has lingered for 50 years. However, the effort to resolve it gained pace in recent times.

Meghalaya was carved out of Assam as a separate state in 1972, but the new state had challenged the Assam Reorganisation Act, 1971, leading to dispute in 12 border locations. (PTI)