Meghalaya assembly passes bill declaring shutdowns illegal


Shillong : The Meghalaya assembly Friday passed a controversial bill declaring shutdowns “illegal” and “unconstitutional” amid vociferous protests and a walkout from the opposition Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).

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The Meghalaya Maintenance of Public Order (Amendment) Bill 2010 was passed without a debate, but NCP legislators said discussions were needed before such legislations.

The NCP walked out when Speaker Charles Pyngrope denied its plea.

“There is no hurry in passing the amended bill. Since the subject is a sensitive one, it needs a proper discussion,” Leader of Opposition and NCP legislator Conrad K. Sangma said.

However, Pyngrope said there was no need of a debate as the majority was in favour of passing the bill.

The Congress has 28 legislators in the 60-member assembly and enjoys the support of nine UDP members, two from the HSPDP, one from KHNAM and four independents. The NCP, the main opposition, has 15 legislators and one Independent member.

Deputy Chief Minister in-charge Law Bindo M. Lanong said the opposition should have raised the matter much earlier.

He said it was the opposition’s attempt to politicise the issue.

According to the bill, any disruption to “normal life” caused by individual or organisations would now be considered “illegal and unconstitutional” and punishable with imprisonment.

Individual or organisations committing subversive law and order acts would be punished with imprisonment for a maximum period of seven years and a minimum of three years, it states.

Violators would also be “liable to compensate the government, the public or private citizen for the loss suffered by them”.

The bill now goes to Governor R.S. Mooshahary for his consent.

Several pressure groups have termed the passing of the bill as “unjustified and undemocratic”.

“This is unwarranted decision to gag public movement against wrong policies and decisions of the government are totally unjustified and undemocratic,” Samuel Jyrwa, president of the influential Khasi Student’s Union, said.

The Meghalaya government decided to move the legislation after the Gauhati High Court declared shutdowns “illegal and unconstitutional” in Assam and Meghalaya based on a similar order passed by the Supreme Court in 1998.