The High Court of Meghalaya has directed the state government not to implement its entry and exit regulations for outsiders into the state. The state government has set up several check gates across the state under the Meghalaya Residents Safety and Security Act, 2016, which made it mandatory for non-residents to register at the check gates.
Although the state government referred to Article 19(5) of the Constitution while drawing up the Act, the grounds on which entry to or movement within the state may be regulated have not been spelt out in the impugned statute or any rules framed thereunder, a Division Bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice W Diengdoh observed on Thursday.
Article 19(5) grants the government the power to impose reasonable restrictions upon the freedom to move freely throughout the territory of India and the freedom to reside or settle in any part of the territory of the country in the interest of the general public or the protection of the interests of any Scheduled Tribe.
“The challenge here is to the validity of the Meghalaya Residents Safety and Security Act, 2016 and the possible draconian manner in which it may be implemented as appropriately apprehended by the petitioners,” the order said.
In her petition, Ibanhunlang Nongkynrih had submitted that the gates have been set up at several points for checks to be conducted on persons seeking to enter the state without any objective parameters being set down for denying entry or regulating the movement of any citizen of the country in the state.
The petitioner had also said that such check-posts may be “impermissible” and the exercise of authority thereat may be “wholly arbitrary”. “It is made clear that the apparent omnibus charter conferred by the impugned statute without indicating any parameters for restricting or regulating the entry or movement of Indian citizens into and within the state may be not exercised,” it said.
The order stated that since the state counsel had sought time to obtain instructions as to whether any rules may be put in place under the statute to provide cogent and reasonable grounds, “let the matter stand over for some time”. The matter has been listed for hearing on February 2, next.
-With PTI Inputs