'Flawed' Lokayukta Bill may not get assent

Shillong, Jan. 22: Meghalaya chief minister Mukul Sangma had smiled on December 14, 2012 when the Assembly managed to pass the "flawed" Meghalaya Lokayukta Bill, 2012 amid a walkout staged by the Opposition.

But Meghalaya governor R.S. Mooshahary has frowned upon seeing the bill, prompting him to return the same without giving his assent.

The "flawed" Meghalaya Lokayukta Bill, 2012, was passed on December 14, 2012, on the last day of the winter session of the Assembly.

The Constitution stipulates that the bill, to become an act, has to receive the assent of the Governor. If the Governor is dissatisfied with the bill, he may return the same to the legislature for reconsideration.

But the Governor will have to put his signature on the bill if it is again sent to him by the legislature with or without modifications.

"I have returned the Lokayukta bill to the government with certain observations regarding the term and conditions of the office of the Lokayukta and its members besides other provisions," Mooshahary said.

While opposing the bill on December 14, Opposition leader Conrad K. Sangma had pointed the "discrepancies" in the bill and alleged that the bill was a "carbon copy" of the Meghalaya Lokayukta and Up-Lokayukta Act, 2002.

The government had brought the bill to repeal the 2002 act. Anti-graft activists have pointed out that the 2002 act is too weak and outmoded to deal with corruption cases.

"The chief minister had said that Meghalaya will show the way in fighting against corruption. But the bill is nowhere near that. It is a mere carbon copy of the 2002 act," Conrad had stated.

United Democratic Party (UDP) legislator Paul Lyngdoh had said the bill suffered from "serious deformities" and stressed that more time was required to study the bill and its ramifications.

Lyngdoh had pointed out that in clause 22 (i) of the bill, the state government may, in consultation with the Lokayukta and on being satisfied that it is necessary or expedient in the public interest so to do, exclude, by notification in the official gazette, complaints involving an allegation against persons belonging to any class of public servants in the notification, from the jurisdiction of the Lokayukta or, as the case may be, member.

Further, he pointed out that in clause 12 (2) "every complaint" shall be accompanied by the complainant's own affidavit in support thereof and the same shall be verified before a first class magistrate together with all documents in his possession pertaining to the accusation.

"This clause is more like slamming the door of justice before any complainant as the process is cumbersome. If we pass the bill in its present form, then we are starting with a flaw," Lyngdoh had stated.

However, chief minister Mukul Sangma had reacted by saying, "It is not correct to say that the bill is a carbon copy. In fact, the bill covers everyone, including the chief minister. It is strong and good enough."

It may be reminded that anti-graft activists had approached Mooshahary with a request that he should withhold his assent to the "flawed" bill.

"We trust that you will use your constitutional powers and your office to send a message that there shall not be an abuse of legislative privileges, and that law making has to be done in the interest of the people," anti-graft activists from 19-odd pressure groups and social organisations said in a letter to Mooshahary.

On the other hand, Mooshahary has given his assent to the Meghalaya Forest Regulation (Amendment) Bill, 2012 on December 19, 2012.

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