PN Syiem wins dual post battle

Mukul Govt suffers yet another blow

SHILLONG: In a set back to the Congress-led MUA-II government and a victory to KHADC CEM and Congress legislator P N Syiem, who was vocal against the Chief Minister on the dual post issue, Governor V. Shanmuganathan in an order said that Syiem does not attract disqualification based on the opinion of Election Commission of India.
Though the order of the Governor issued on May 31 was in particular reference to KHADC CEM, this may be applicable to other seven legislators who had relinquished the posts of MDCs after the passing of the controversial dual pos Bill by the State Assembly.
In the context of the move of the dissidents to overthrow Mukul Sangma from the post of Chief Minister, the sudden development will act as added ammunition to the disgruntled legislators who had told the Government in the past not to take any hasty decision on the issue of dual post.
The KHADC CEM and the Chief Minister have been at logger heads over the issue of dual post and the former had even met the AICC leaders in Delhi including the Congress President Sonia Gandhi explaining to them that there was no proper consultations on the part of the Chief Minister before passing the Bill on dual post.
A jubilant Syiem told media persons on Wednesday that he received a copy of the order of the Governor regarding the office of profit issue forwarded by NK Arjun,  the Deputy Secretary to the Governor.
However, the Syiem is annoyed over the stand of the state government in referring only his name to the Election Commission whereas the High Court wanted the names of all the seven MLAs who were holding the posts of MDCs to be referred to the Election Commission.
According to Syiem, his stand has been vindicated that the post of CEM does not fall under office of profit as KHADC is an autonomous body. Moreover, the post of MDC does not come under the state government to invoke the provisions of disqualification, he said.
The order of the Governor  issued on May 31 said, “In accordance with opinion of the Election Commission of India, I hereby decide that under Article 192 (1) of the Constitution  Pynshngainlang Syiem, member of Meghalaya Legislative Assembly has not attracted the disqualification under Article 191(1) (a) of the Constitution. The matter is disposed off accordingly”.
The Article 191(1) (a) states that a “person shall be disqualified for being chosen as, and for being, a member of the Legislative Assembly or Legislative Council of a State if he holds any office of profit under the Government of India or the Government of any State specified in the First Schedule, other than an office declared by the Legislature of the State by law not to disqualify its holder”.
Earlier, the High Court wanted the Governor to give his views on the dual posts after referring the matter to the Election Commission as per article 192 (2) of the Constitution on matters related to disqualification of legislators for holding office of profit.
Article 192(2) states that before giving any decision on the dual post issue, the Governor will obtain the opinion of the Election Commission and shall act according to such opinion.
The final May 31 order of the Governor said that a reference was received from the state government on 28.1.2015 under article 192 of the Constitution of India, wherein a question had arisen as to whether PN Syiem, MLA  has become the subject to disqualification under Article 191 (1) (a) of the Constitution since he is also simultaneously an elected member of  KHADC.
In terms of Article 192(2) of the Constitution, the matter was referred to Election Commission of India on 30.11.2015 seeking the opinion of the Commission.
” The opinion of Election Commission of India  received vide letter dated  May 16, 2016  has been placed before  me and I have perused the same. The Election Commission has opined that Pynshngainlang Syiem, MLA cannot be said to be holding an office of profit under the Government within the meaning of Article 191 (1) (a) of the Constitution and consequently Syiem, the Chief Executive Member has not attracted the disqualification  Article 191 (1) (a) “, the order r said.
A PIL in this regard has been pending in the High Court since October 2014 seeking disqualification of legislators for holding the posts of MDCs citing that it is an office of profit.
After the High Court pursued the matter, the state government passed the dual-post Bill in the Assembly with effect from October 1 last year following which as many as seven MLAs who were holding the posts of MDCs , HDR. Lyngdoh (Congress), Ardent Miller Basaiawmoit and  Phlastingwell Pangniang (HSPDP), Brolding Nongsiej and Metbah Lyngdoh (UDP), Sanbor Shullai(NCP) from KHADC  and  Stephanson Mukhim, Independent from JHADC, had given up the posts fearing disqualification.
However, despite pressure from various quarters, the KHADC CEM continued to hold on to his position citing that KHADC is an autonomous body and the issue of office of profit does not arise.
The last hearing of the case in the High Court of Meghalaya was on January 13, but the matter was adjourned after the Advocate General had apprised the Court that the Election Commission was still examining the matter.
Now, the law department will place the May 31 order of the Governor before the High Court for a final decision on the pending PIL.

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