SHILLONG, Jan 15: Deputy Chief Minister, Prestone Tynsong, on Friday refused to comment on the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by a group of lawyers seeking the closure of the entry point/tourists’ facilitation centre at Umling in Ri-Bhoi district.
“The PIL is yet to be admitted. I would not like to comment on it since it is outside government’s jurisdiction,” he told reporters.
The Umling infrastructure was set up by the state government based on the Meghalaya Residents Safety and Security Act (MRSSA) 2016.
The government is in the process of constructing similar entry-exit points in Ratacherra and Bajengdoba.
The PIL was filed by advocates from the High Court of Meghalaya Bar Association, in their individual capacity, on December 22. It may come up for hearing in February since the court is currently on vacation.
The petitioners claimed that the MRRSA infringed the fundamental rights of the citizens of the country. But Tynsong said the government had done due diligence before MRSSA was passed.
He said the views of a legal team were also sought while formulating the legislation.
The government has no intention to harass any citizens coming to the state. The visitors will only need to register themselves at the entry point, he said.
“We leave it to the wisdom of the judiciary. Let the court give its verdict,” he added.
The move by the lawyers comes amidst the rising demand for implementation of Inner Line Permit (ILP) in the state. The petitioners claimed the State Legislature does not have any power to make law prohibiting or restricting the entry and exit of Indian citizens under the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution.
It was alleged in the petition that the state government, in the guise of safety of residents or in the name of COVID-19, was indirectly trying to implement ILP, which is the exclusive jurisdiction of the President of India by way of issuance of order under Clause 2 of Article 372 of the Constitution of India or of the Central government.
“The State Legislature is not competent to make law to restrict entry and exit of Indian citizens into/from Meghalaya and the MRSSA, 2016, being made by the State Legislature in absence of any such power provided by the Constitution, it must be declared void, illegal and ultra-vires. Further, the provision of the Act, specifically Section 5-20, violates the fundamental rights guaranteed to Indian citizens under Article.14, 15, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India and hence, the same does not pass the test of constitutionality and must be declared void,” the petition reads.
The petitioners argued that constitutional authority cannot do indirectly what it is not permitted to do directly and if it does, that will be a fraud on the Constitution and such similar fraud has been committed by the state while trying to implement the ILP in the guise of resident safety by bringing in the MRSSA.
They stated that police verification of tenants and residents is done in almost all states of the country “but does it require a check gate/facilitation centre on a national highway in the line of ILP, in circumstances when the state of Meghalaya is not authorised to do so as per law?”
Observing that the resident’s safety is only an alibi but the main intention is to restrict the entry and exit of genuine Indian citizens into the state of Meghalaya, they said, “In today’s world, no one can live in isolation; everyone needs one another and that’s how the humanity will survive and closing the doors will turn our state into a zoo and the same cannot be allowed just for the sake of satisfying the fancy wishes of some of members of the NGOs in Meghalaya, who are not even bothered for development of the state, uplift of the poor and unemployment problem of the youth.”
The petitioners said the implementation of MRSSA would have severe impact on economy as the revenue-deficit state is already dependent on grants from the Centre.
They believed that tourism, which is the backbone of state’s economy, will get severely impacted and people engaged directly or indirectly in the business of hotels, restaurants, malls, guest houses, rent houses, small shops, vegetable vendors, taxi (tourist/local) etc., would become jobless, which would lead to destruction of each household.