Meghalaya HC: Villagers Can’t be Forbidden from Using Public Roads for Transportation, Violation of Fundamental Rights

Meghalaya High Court

Aastha Thakur

Published on: 21 September 2022 at 23:18 IST

The High Court of Meghalaya has stated that a decision depriving two elderly residents of their basic rights by forbidding them from utilising a village road for transportation is obviously unlawful, discriminatory, and punitive in character.

The two men refused to grant No Objection Certificates (NOCs) to part with a section of their individual holdings for the intended building of a motorable road in the region, leading Marwir Village Dorbar to vote the resolution against them.

Justice H. S. Thangkhiew said: “As observed earlier, the resolution dated 24.04.2019, is in violation and in contravention of the petitioners’ fundamental rights, as it has imposed restrictions on the movement of the petitioners, as also preventing them from transporting their produce and essential commodities…”

“…which is manifestly illegal, discriminatory and at the same time punitive which militates against and offends Articles-14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India. The resolution dated 24.04.2019 therefore being patently illegal and arbitrary, is accordingly quashed and set aside.”

The decision could not and should not have been passed by authority, whether it be legal or customary, according to the court, despite any provocation. Without a doubt, the road would benefit everyone, it said, but it also stressed that disregard for private property could not be excused in any way.

Further the Court states that under Article 300-A each citizen is guaranteed the protection to his property.

The petitioners may use the village road for any legitimate purpose, including the transportation of their agricultural products, necessities, and other merchandise, without interference from the respondents, the village body officials, according to a court judgement.

The court made it clear that no one can deprive the petitioners from availing any available developmental schemes and aid from govt. agencies. Any such action will lead to punitive measures that may be adopted by the respondents No. 1, 2 and 3, shall forthwith be reported to the District Administration, who shall take appropriate action thereon.

The bench imposed a fine of Rs. 25000 on Village Dorbar and officials, saying that the elderly should not have been subjected to such loss and suffering. According to the ruling from September 14th, the petitioners must pay the fine within four weeks.

However, the court also mandated that the block development officer and executive magistrate of the district administration arrange a meeting between village officials and the petitioners as soon as possible, “to explain and enlighten them as to their duties and functions which should be exercised within legal parameters, in a lawful and just manner.”

The petitioners had asked the court to nullify and set aside the resolution from April 24, 2019, and to give instructions not to prevent them from utilising a local public route. The two petitioners are from the West Khasi Hills village of Marwir in Myriaw Syiemship. By utilising government programmes in 2019, the village authority has suggested turning the current village kutcha road into a motorable road.

The Village Dorbar further prohibited any vehicle from moving or carrying any of the petitioners’ produce on the village road, and it further imposed the condition that any offender would be subject to a fine of Rs. 5,000.

The petitioners stated before the court that because the resolution prevents their agricultural output and other vital goods from being delivered via the village road, they have endured extreme suffering and severe financial loss. It was said that the petitioners are prepared to sign the NOC with regard to their share of the land. The resolution, it was argued, violates Articles 14, 19, 21, and 300-A of the Indian Constitution.

According to the court, the Village Headman, who is appointed and empowered by the Khasi Hills Autonomous District (Appointment and Succession of Syiem, Deputy Syiem, and Electors of Myriaw Syiemship) Act, 2007, is viewed as a traditional head at the village level.

The headman performs customary tasks, according to the court, and as a result, the government has given him significance, prominence, and even legal protection in the implementation of government schemes.

However, the court ruled that there is no legal justification for acquiring land through donations from landowners. The petitioner was not required by tradition to give up their land, it was said.

“Article 300-A of the Constitution provides that ‘no person shall be deprived of his property say by authority of law’ and every citizen is guaranteed this protection, apart from every other authority such as a Village Dorbar, being bound in this aspect,” said the court.

Thereafter, the Court disposed of the matter.

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