The Meghalaya High Court has banned the media from publishing statements by organisations that call for shutdowns or rallies in the state, after stating that it results in disruption of normal life.
The order came after state Director General of Police Rajiv Mehta requested the court to restrain the media from carrying statements by the Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC) and other organisations calling for shutdowns and other forms of agitations.
A full bench of Chief Justice Uma Nath Singh, Justice T.N.K. Singh and Justice S.R. Sen issued the order on Wednesday night.
"We direct that the statements of HNLC or any organisation, which may disturb the day-to-day public life and cause violation of the fundamental rights of citizens... shall not be issued by any print and electronic media outlet," the court directed.
The bench said that violation of the court order would result in charges under the contempt of court, and also directed the state government to register criminal cases for such violations.
The HNLC militant group called for a 24-hour shutdown from 6.00 p.m. on May 26 till 6 p.m. on May 27 to protest the delay in passing the Village Administration Bill by the Congress-led state government.
Describing the shutdown a violation of the citizens' fundamental rights, the full bench said: "It has become a regular feature in the day-to-day life of Meghalaya, particularly the city of Shillong."
"It is reported that the otherwise peaceful public life has been badly disturbed because of the bandh called by the HNLC. Medical shops, hotels and conveyance services are not available to the citizens. Thus, the bandh has violated their fundamental rights as guaranteed in Articles 19 and 21 of the Constitution," the Bench stated.
In its 13-page order, the court also directed the chief executive officer of Shillong Municipal Board to issue notice to all shops and business establishments, medical shops, hotels and taxi owners, asking them why their licences should not be cancelled "for staying away from their lawful vocation".
Notice was also issued to the central and state government organisations to file affidavits regarding the position of staff attendance on Thursday.
The court said the establishments remained closed despite the state government's repeated assurances of providing them adequate protection.
The full bench of the high court also directed the Meghalaya government to dispel fear from the mind of common citizens by holding a flag march.