Meghalaya CM holds out promise of strong Lokayukta

Shillong, March 21 (IANS) Meghalaya’s Congress Chief Minister Mukul Sangma Thursday assured his state that his government would soon pass a strong and effective Lokayukta Bill.

Governor R.S. Mooshahary had withheld his assent to a controversial Meghalaya Lokayukta (ombudsman) Bill passed in the assembly by the previous Congress-led Meghalaya United Alliance government, which too was headed by Sangma.
The bill was tabled and passed in the state assembly Dec 14, 2012, without discussion and the then legislators of opposition Nationalist Congress Party walked out of the house in protest, saying they would not be party to a bill that has inherent “flaws and weaknesses”.
“The government would do all it can to fight corruption and would also supplement the Lokayukta Bill with other legislations like social auditing of schemes and a law for effective delivery mechanisms,” Sangma assured legislators of the newly constituted 60-members assembly.
Sangma was replying to a resolution to amend the Meghalaya Lokayukta Act, 2002, moved by opposition United Democratic Party legislator Paul Lyngdoh.
The chief minister said the government would not shy away from its responsibility in bringing a bill that is acceptable to the society and it would do it soon.
“It should be re-drafted instead of amending… the clauses. Take members from the opposition in re-drafting the bill or send it to a select committee,” Lyngdoh demanded.
Terming the Meghalaya Lokayukta Act as “weak and defensive”, independent legislator John Leslee Sangma said the act “exposed fear in the government.”
“Although the government passed the bill, it cleverly inserted clauses to get away (from corruption charges). It was passed with an intention to obstruct justice and as a defence for the corrupt,” Leslee said.
“Some of the glaring weaknesses in the bill are clauses which empower the government to exempt anyone from the Lokayukta’s purview through a notification,” Meghalaya Right to Information Movement (MRTIM) convener Michael Syiem said.
He added: “The other weakness in the bill is that complaint should be accompanied by the complainant’s own affidavit to support all documents pertaining to the accusation and the same should be verified before a magistrate.”
With Mooshahary refusing to give his assent to the Lokayukta Bill, anti-graft activists are hopeful that the new government would provide a strong Lokayukta act to deal with corruption in the state.