Scope for further improvement, say observers

SHILLONG: The State Government has notified the Meghalaya Lokayukta Act 2014, but there is scope for further improvement of the Act, say observers.

The criticism against the previous Meghalaya Lokayukta Act, 2012, was that acts committed 10 years ago would not be taken into account by the Lokayukta. But the present Lokayukta Act 2014 has reduced the period of inquiry to seven years.

This means that acts of corruption committed seven years ago will not be examined by the Lokayukta as there is no provision in this regard in the new Act.

Section 53 under the headline “limitation to apply in certain cases” in Chapter XV of the Act says: “The Lokayukta shall not inquire or investigate into any complaint, if the complaint is made after the expiry of a period of seven years from the date on which the offence mentioned in such complaint is alleged to have been committed”.

Another defect is that the personnel of the army, the air force, the navy and the coast guard are exempted from the jurisdiction of State Lokayukta as per the Army Act, Air Force Act, Navy Act and Coast Guard Act. Neither is it clear to observers where is the coast in Meghalaya for the coast guard to ‘guard’.

Moreover, for false complaints made before the Lokayukta, imprisonment for six months and fine of upto Rs. 1 lakh fine will be imposed.

Another highlight of the Lokayukta Act is concerning the legislators. As per the new Act, the Lokayukta will not inquire into any allegation of corruption in respect of anything said or a vote given by him or her in the State legislature or any committee covered under article 194 of the Constitution.

Moreover, no action will be taken in case of a person serving in connection with the affairs of the Union Government without the consent of the Union Government.

However, there are many merits of the present Lokayukta Act. The Act says that any Society which accepts foreign donations beyond Rs. 10 lakh per year will come under the scanner of the Lokayukta.

Moreover, as per the Act, there will be separate inquiry and prosecution wings to conduct investigation into the acts of corruption.

Special courts will also be set up by the Lokayukta to try the cases as per the Act.

Declaration of assets by all the public servants within 30 days from the date of assuming office is another remarkable point which is highlighted in the Meghalaya Lokayukta Act.

As far as the appointment of Chairperson of Lokayukta is concerned, the Act says that the Chairperson should be “an individual who is or has been a Chief Justice of the High Court or a Judge of the High Court or an eminent person who fulfils the eligibility of having impeccable integrity and knowledge of anti-corruption policy for at least 25 years”.

Besides the Chairperson, there will be four members in the Lokayukta.

Out of four members of Lokayukta, fifty per cent should be judicial members.

“Judicial member of Lokayukta can be a person who is or has been a Judge of the High Court or a person who is eligible to be a Judge of the High court”, as per the Act.

A person other than judicial members should be individuals having the eligibility of impeccable integrity and knowledge of anti-corruption policy for at least 25 years.

Those who cannot be Chairperson or members include MPs, MLAs or MDCs or anyone convicted or removed from service.

They also should not hold any office of profit or engage in business activities.

Moreover, a person less than 45 years of age cannot be either Chairperson of Lokayukta or a member. The Chairperson and members can remain in office till 70 years of age and the term of the Lokayukta is for 5 years.

The Chairperson and members will be appointed by the Governor after obtaining the recommendation of a selection committee consisting of Chief Minister as Chairperson, Speaker, Leader of Opposition, Chief Justice of the High Court of Meghalaya or a Judge to be nominated by him and an eminent person nominated by the Governor as members.

The Selection Committee will constitute a Search Committee comprising at least five members to prepare a panel of persons to be appointed as Chairperson and members. The Search Committee should have knowledge about anti corruption policies and laws.

Moreover, not less than 50 per cent of the members of the search committee will be from among the persons belonging to SCs, STs, other backward classes and women.

The Search committee has to submit twice the number of Chairperson and members for consideration by selection committee which is also free to select any other persons than those recommended by the search committee.

Merits

l Foreign donations beyond Rs 10 lakh per annum to come under scanner

l Separate inquiry and prosecution wings

l Special courts to try cases of corruption

l Declaration of assets by all public servants

Demerits

l No inquiry on acts of corruption committed seven years ago

l Army, air force, navy and coast guards exempted from Lokayukta

l In case of false complaints, imprisonment for six months and upto Rs 1 lakh fine.

l No inquiry into any allegation of corruption in respect of anything said or a vote given by him or her in the state legislature or any committee

l No inquiry against Central Government employee without the consent of the Centre

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