| Mukul Sangma |
Shillong, Jan. 9: Anti-graft activists today dared chief minister Mukul Sangma to make the Meghalaya Lokayukta Act, 2013 stronger if he was serious about curbing corruption in the state.
The activists are working under the umbrella of the Campaign for an Independent Lokayukta in Meghalaya.
The campaign comprises groups like the Khasi Students’ Union (KSU), Federation of Khasi-Jaintia and Garo People (FKJGP), Maitshaphrang Movement, Garo Students’ Union (GSU), Jaintia Youth Federation (JYF) and Meghalaya Right to Information Movement (MRTIM), among others.
On Tuesday, Sangma had said the act could undergo more changes in view of the passage of the Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill, 2013 in Parliament last month. Among the “non-negotiable” demands put forward by the campaign, the act should include an independent Lokayukta with an investigation and a prosecution wing attached to it.
“The investigation and prosecution should not be a time-consuming affair. They should have a fixed target,” Michael N. Syiem of the MRTIM, said. At the same time, the groups want a search committee to be appointed for the selection of the Lokayukta while demanding that the Lokayukta’s term should be fixed for five years without any scope for extension.
The act states that the Lokayukta’s term is for three years with room for extension. Social activist Angela Rangad said there should not be too much emphasis on only persons belonging to the judiciary and executive in the constitution of the Lokayukta and members.
“While one of the three members ought to have a judicial background, there should also be emphasis on having a person from civil society who has had experience of working on policy and campaign issues centering on corruption,” she said.
Rangad said the procedure for the removal of the Lokayukta should be made more stringent. The act states that the Lokayukta can be removed on grounds of misbehaviour or incapacity only by a majority process of impeachment through a resolution passed by the majority of total membership of the Assembly.
“This is a process which is too simple. It will undermine the independence of the Lokayukta. And who will investigate the allegations of misbehaviour or incapacity before the resolution is put to vote is not stated,” she said. Further, the groups want the act to bring under its ambit the traditional institutions of the syiem, doloi, nokma, headmen and official authorities appointed under the institutions.
Arguing that suo motu powers should be given to the anti-corruption ombudsman, Rangad said the existing clause in the act on matters which have been referred to a commission of inquiry, should be removed. The groups also demanded a public consultation on the amendments which are required to be brought to the act.
“If the chief minister could hold a public consultation on the Meghalaya Regulation of Landlords and Verification of Tenants bill, he may as well do the same for the purpose of seeking public opinion on the changes required to be brought into the Meghalaya Lokayukta Act, 2013,” Rangad said.