Media banned from publishing any statement relating to bandh, strike, rallies

Meghalaya High Court: Taking a serious note of the impact of bandhs on the life and livelihood of the citizens of Meghalaya, a three Judge bench of Uma N. Singh CJ, T.N. Singh and S.R. Sen JJ came down heavily against the bandh culture prevailing in the State and directed the Government of Meghalaya to issue notice to all shops and business establishments especially the medical shops, hotels and taxi owners as to why their licences shall not be cancelled for staying away from their lawful avocation and for keeping their establishments closed despite repeated Press Release/Communiqué of assurance issued by the State Government that they shall be provided adequate protection on their place of occupation/business.

The Court noted that on account of 48 hours bandh in the State by the organisation namely “Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council” (HNLC) which is said to have been banned as unlawful association by the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Tribunal, Delhi the even tempo of otherwise peaceful public life has been badly disturbed. The Court relied on full bench decision in the case of Bharat Kumar K Palicha v. State of Kerala 1997 SCC OnLine Ker 134, which was upheld by the Supreme Court in the case of Communist Party of India (M) v. Bharat Kumar (1998) 1 SCC 201 and stated that “bandh” violates the fundamental rights of common citizens as guaranteed in Articles 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India and that the political parties and organizations can be asked to recoup the loss and damages suffered by the citizens of their lives and private properties, and by the Government in the case of damage to public properties. The Court further stated that the essential services shall always remain available in all eventualities, and in case of necessity, the District Administration can be authorized to call Para military force to deal with the situation.

The Court observed that the major problem of disturbance in the public life was that the statements issued by the unlawful organisations were given undue publicity and coverage, both in print and electronic media which created fear in the mind of common citizens, and accordingly directed the media to restrain from publishing any statements relating to strike, Bandh, Hartal, Road Blockade and holding of Rallies with unlawful design issued by/ or in the name of any organisation which may have the effect of disturbing the even tempo of public life in the State of Meghalaya. The Court further directed the Secretary/Director of Information and Publicity of Government of Meghalaya, to ensure wide publicity of this order in print and electronic media so that the common citizens are encouraged to return to their normal life and get strength of courage to pursue their regular avocation without any element of fear. Registrar General v. State of Meghalaya, 2015 SCC OnLine Megh 55, decided on 27.05.2015

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