|Ramesh Allay (top) and Binay Tamang
Darjeeling, Oct. 20: The Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) Sabha today decided to convene a meeting to give the deputy chief executive the powers of a chief executive so that the hill autonomous body starts functioning normally.
The GTA is controlled by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha which had said during the July-September statehood agitation that it would exit the hill body at an “appropriate time”.
The decision to convene the Sabha was taken a day after the three Morcha MLAs — Trilok Dewan, Harka Bahadur Chhetri and Rohit Sharma — met Trinamul general secretary Mukul Roy in Calcutta.
Sources in the Morcha said the meeting centered on issues regarding the functioning of the GTA and the Morcha termed the discussions “positive”.
Lopshang Yolmo, the deputy chairman of the GTA, today said: “The GTA Sabha meeting will be held either on Tuesday or Wednesday. In the meeting the Sabha members will empower the deputy chief executive (Ramesh Allay) to act as the chief executive until Binay Tamang is released.”
Sources said the date of the meeting would be finalised after Morcha chief Bimal Gurung and party general secretary Roshan Giri, who left for Guwahati to pray at the Kamakhya temple, return.
“We are going on a religious tour and if we can complete the darshan tomorrow we will return tomorrow itself,” Giri said.
The meeting would be held at a time chief minister Mamata Banerjee would be touring the hills. She is scheduled to address a meeting in Darjeeling, her first political one after becoming the chief minister, on October 24.
Following Gurung’s resignation as the chief executive of the GTA on July 30, the Sabha, after initial reluctance, elected Binay Tamang as the next chief on September 27.
But Tamang was arrested on August 22 after being booked for arson. He could not take oath.
As per the GTA Act, Section 37 sub-section 10, the chief executive has to take oath, administered by the Bengal governor, within a month of his election to the post.
The one-month time frame for Tamang expires on October 27 by which date Tamang is unlikely to be released.
Sources in the government said that if Tamang does not take oath within October 27, then the state government can either supersede the GTA for a period of six months on the ground of incompetence (Section 64 of the GTA Act), or appoint any member as the chief executive until a new chief enters office (Section 37, sub-section 8 of the GTA Act).
The Morcha, it was learnt, wants to convene the Sabha meeting to empower Allay so that the GTA starts functioning normally.
Even though Section 40 of the GTA Act states that the deputy chief executive shall “during the absence of the chief executive, exercise all the powers, perform all the function and discharge all the duties of the chief executive,” government officials looking after the GTA argue that this section would hold only if the chief executive is in place.
“The situation in the GTA is such that technically there is no chief executive and hence this particular provision of the GTA Act will not hold. Had the new chief executive taken oath and had remained absent from office for whatever reason, then the deputy chief could have exercised all powers of the chief executive,” said a government official.
Jyoti Kumar Rai, assistant secretary of the Morcha and an elected GTA member, also spoke on similar lines.
“The Sabha is looking at empowering the deputy chief to discharge the functions of the chief executive as a lot of pending work has been hampered,” he said.