Wednesday, February 28, 2024

M’laya Lokayukta remains a toothless anti-corruption body

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HILLONG: Though the Rajya Sabha has passed the Lokpal Bill, the Congress-led MUA Government in Meghalaya is yet to come up with a strong Lokayukta as the already notified Meghalaya Lokayukta Amendment Act, 2013, is replete with loopholes.

The Government in October hurriedly passed the twice-amended Lokayukta Bill without any discussion in the State Assembly despite earlier promises by Chief Minister Dr Mukul Sangma that the Bill would be debated in the House.

The Lokayukta Act which was notified on November 11 has little in it to attract people to lodge complaints with ease as they have to file affidavits before first class judicial magistrates to register a complaint.

This striking similarity to the proposed Meghalaya Regulation of Landlord and Verification of Tenants Bill, 2013 which also stipulates that both landlords and tenants have to file affidavits before the first class judicial magistrates to make the tenancy valid, is a strong indication that both the Lokayukta Act and the Tenancy Act could have be authored by the same bureaucrat.

The Government has failed to come up with an explanation on why grade IV employees and employees below grade IV, Chief Justice, any Judge of the High Court, officers and staff of the High Court, members of Meghalaya Judicial service and Chairman or any member of Meghalaya Public Service Commission have been exempted from the purview of the Lokayukta Act.

Moreover, there is lack of clarity on why the policy formulation by the State Government and also the action taken in pursuance of policies so framed by the Government is also exempted from any probe by the Lokayukta.

The provision of removal of the Lokayukta by a simple majority of the State Legislature is seen as an attempt to restrict the autonomy of the anti-corruption body.

The Act has provision to make any criticism of Lokayukta a punishable offence which directly violates the freedom of the individual.

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