Saturday, June 15, 2024
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Robust Lokayukta in Meghalaya

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The Meghalaya Right to Information Movement (MRTIM) and a host of other NGOs have impressed upon Chief Minister Dr Mukul Sangma to legislate a fresh Lokayukta in the December session of the Assembly. Ironically the NGOs spearheading this demand have managed to get a copy of the cabinet decision on the existing Lokayukta in Meghalaya which was legislated way back in 2002. Predictably, it is without any teeth whatsoever. It was passed at a time when public awareness about such accountability mechanisms was almost non-existent. The existing Lokayukta exempts several key actors in government from prosecution in case of wrongdoings. It was never meant to be an effective anti-corruption tool!

In a situation where scams have become second nature to governments and lack of transparency derails many development projects, a new and cutting edge Lokayukta along the lines of the Act proposed to be passed by the Centre, is imperative for Meghalaya. The new Lokayukta would in essence be an independent 3 member body including a Chairperson and 2 other members. It should be able to investigate and initiate prosecution on any public servant including the Chief Minister, other ministers, civil servants etc., It shall have the power to take suo moto cognizance of any act of corruption or on a complaint substantiated by RTI. At least one member should have a legal background with impeccable credentials. The Lokayukta shall be able to attach property/assets acquired by corrupt means. It shall also have an independent Investigation and Prosecution Wing and shall initiate prosecution before a Special Court established under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.

The movers and shakers for this new Act believe it will address the lacunae inherent in the RTI. As of today the RTI provides information but comes a cropper as the person having the information has to depend on the good offices of the Chief Vigilance Officer (CVO), namely the Chief Secretary to take action against those found guilty of corruption. If the CVO is an offender, it is expected that he would sabotage the entire process. The RTI therefore stops short of prosecution. Anyone who wishes to pursue a matter to its logical end has to take legal recourse. But court cases are fraught with delays. Besides, a public interest litigation does not always happen pro-bono. It is an expensive process. It is therefore in the interest of every citizen of Meghalaya to unite in demanding the passage of the new Lokayukta in the coming winter session. This could even be a feather in the cap of the MUA-II as it steps into elections 2013.

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