The Supreme Court, on April 10, said it will hear in July a plea of the Meghalaya government challenging the high court’s decision staying the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed by the chief ministers of Assam and Meghalaya for settling their festering boundary dispute.
A bench comprising Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and justices P S Narasimha and J B Pardiwala said the plea, which should have been listed on a non-miscellaneous day, has wrongly been listed on Monday by the apex court registry.
“We will keep this in July,” the bench said. The state government has challenged the December 8, 2022 order of the Meghalaya High Court staying the MoU signed by the chief ministers of Assam and Meghalaya for settling the boundary dispute.
Earlier, the state government, while assailing the high court’s order, had said the issues concerning the alteration of boundaries or exchange of areas between two states are a purely political question within the “sole domain” of the Executive. In its plea before the top court, the Meghalaya government said the high court failed to appreciate that an interim order cannot be passed on mere asking of the petitioner when the matter pertains to exercise of sovereign functions like demarcation of boundary between the states.
“It is submitted that any issues concerning the alteration of boundaries between two states or issues concerning exchange of areas between two states is a purely political question relating to the political administration of the country and its federal constituent units.
It is submitted that the said exercise has no shade of judicial adjudication, and falls squarely within the sole domain of the Executive. It is submitted that any interference or staying of such MoU amounts to a complete breach of the separation of powers enshrined under the Constitution of India,” the plea submitted.
The petition stated that the MoU signed by the two states is a sovereign act between the states to demarcate the boundaries in a fair and transparent manner which cannot be interfered with by way of a writ petition and much less by passing an interim order. Moreover, the scope of judicial review in respect of such matters is extremely narrow, it said.
“In passing the impugned judgment the division bench failed to appreciate that the MoU
dated March 29, 2022, signed between the State of Assam and the State of Meghalaya in the presence of Union Minister of Home Affairs settling outstanding boundary disputes in respect of six areas.
“Clause 19 of MoU required the Survey of India to demarcate the boundary of the State of Assam and the State of Meghalaya in respect of six areas in presence of representatives of both the states. The interim order passed by the single judge has in effect resulted in stalling the said process of demarcation of boundary between the two states and derailing the resolution of a long pending boundary dispute between the State of Assam and the State of Meghalaya,” the plea submitted.
The state government said the high court ought to have interfered with the interim order passed by the single judge as the same was passed in a mechanical manner without adherence to the judicially determined principles for grant of interim relief.
A single judge bench of the Meghalaya High Court had on December 8 ordered an interim stay on physical demarcation or erection of boundary posts on the ground following the inter-state border pact.