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Battle over jurisdiction in Shillong

Shillong, Dec. 6: The Shillong Municipal Board (SMB) has allegedly infringed on the working of the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council — drawing the ire of tribal and non-tribal traders here.

The move has also prompted Assembly deputy speaker Sanbor Shullai to ask the council to file contempt of court proceedings against the board to avoid any dispute in future.

Shullai led a delegation of headmen to meet KHADC chief executive member (CEM) Pynshngaiñlang N. Syiem here today and apprise him about the “illegal act” of the municipal board that has encroached into the business and jurisdiction of the KHADC, especially in areas tagged as “municipal administered” areas.

“The municipal board can interfere only in normal areas under its own jurisdiction but not in administered areas that fall under the jurisdiction of the KHADC,” Shullai, who is also the chairman of the KHADC’s advisory committee on administrative reforms, told reporters after the meeting with Syiem.

Various tribal organisations in Meghalaya have often argued that municipal boards are only civic organisations that can make/regulate laws or bylaws or exercise powers only for health and sanitation purposes.

The deputy speaker, who represents Shillong South constituency in the Assembly, is also the member of the district council in KHADC from Laban-Mawprem constituency.

Shullai told the CEM that Shillong Municipal Board chief executive officer T. Lyngwa had served notices to several traders directing them to obtain “business licences” from the board before conducting any business in the Laban area.

“It was found that you are still continuing to conduct your business without a valid licence in violation of Section 1 of the Shillong municipal byelaw framed under the Meghalaya Municipal Act, 1973,” the notice served to the traders on November 28 said.

The notice said traders who failed to comply with the directive would have to stop business transactions — failing which action would be taken against them.

However, Shullai said the KHADC had the power to issue trading licence to non-tribals as per the United Khasi Jaintia Hills District (Trading By Non-Tribals) Regulation act, 1954 and 1959, as enshrined within the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.

But tribal traders are exempted from the purview of the act.

Armed with a Supreme Court judgment, which had upheld KHADC as the authority as far as issuing of trading license is concerned, Shullai said, the actions of the municipal board was nothing but a deliberate attempt to undermine the jurisdiction and power of the autonomous district council.

“The municipal board indicated its motive and intention not to honour the judgment of the Supreme Court (December 10, 1999) which has settled the matter once and for all,” the deputy speaker said.

Stating that the CEM had promised to take necessary steps, Shullai said the KHADC should also file contempt of court case against the municipal board to ensure that such “illegal actions” are not repeated in future and for the interest of the people residing in tribal areas of Shillong.