The Meghalaya High Court on Thursday put an interim stay on an agreement between the state and Assam to resolve border disputes at six of the 12 contentious locations. The stay order will stay in effect till the next date of hearing on February 23, the court said.

On March 29, the chief ministers of the two states had signed an agreement to end the disputes. Home Minister Amit Shah had described the development as historic.

The two states are embroiled in a border dispute which started when Meghalaya was carved out of Assam on January 21, 1972, under the Assam Reorganisation Act, 1971. Disputes arose at 12 locations after Meghalaya challenged the law.

Assam is the only state with which Meghalaya shares an internal border.

An area of 36.79 square kilometres was disputed between the two states. According to the agreement signed on March 29, Assam will control 18.51 square kilometres of the land and Meghalaya 18.28 square kilometres.

After signing the agreement, Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma had said that both the states, along with the Survey of India, will conduct a survey, after which demarcation would take place.

The Meghalaya High Court stay order came on a petition filed by four heads of Syiemship and Sirdarship, former independent native states of the Khasi ethnic groups that function under the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council, reported IANS.

The petitioners have argued that the memorandum of understanding between the Assam and Meghalaya governments was signed without consulting them. They claimed that the MoU violated provisions of the Sixth Schedule as the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council has been conferred powers on subjects such as land, water, soil, local customs and culture.

The Sixth Schedule deals with special provisions for administration of tribal areas.

At the hearing on Thursday, Advocate P Sharma, appearing for the petitioners, argued that if the demarcation is done as per the agreement signed in March, the plea to stop the exercise would become infructuous.

Advocate General A Kumar, however, urged the High Court not to pass any interim order arguing that the petitioners would not face any “irreparable loss” if the agreement is put into effect. The High Court then directed the Union government file an affidavit on the petition on the next date of hearing.