NGOs demand effective anti-graft mechanism

Shillong, Nov 7 : The Meghalaya Right to Information Movement, a group of NGOs, issued a press release today expressing dismay over the attempt of the state government to appoint a Lokayutka based on a “toothless and anti-people” Meghalaya Lokayukta and Up-lokayukta Act, 2002. It also demanded a repeal or an amendment to the act.

The group comprises activists like Michael N. Syiem, Angela Rangad and Tarun Bhartiya. “We have been demanding an effective anti-corruption mechanism in the state for the past five years, but we note with dismay the government’s attempt to appoint a Lokayukta based on a toothless and anti-people act,” the statement said.

Moreover, the movement said five years have elapsed after the rules were drafted, and the government is rushing to implement the act.

“This law, which the government had kept in cold storage for more than 10 years, has been suddenly rediscovered, as the government knows that the Lokayukta under the act would be a powerless body,” it said..

It also said under the present law that the government has passed, the Lokayukta would be a body with merely investigating and recommendatory powers. It has no power to initiate suo moto investigation. It has no power for prosecution or ordering punishment against corrupt public servants. The Lokayukta has no financial, judicial and administrative independence.

“Even its reach is restricted. The chief minister will be exempted from the purview of Lokayukta and no grievances against the chief minister, ministers, legislators and bureaucrats occupying the top echelons can be entertained by this body,” it said.

As this law predates the Right to Information Act, 2005, the movement said there are “contradictions” in the law. “Whereas citizens can access cabinet deliberations under the RTI, the Lokayukta cannot. Moreover, bureaucracy will decide which documents can be made accessible to the Lokayukta for its investigation,” it said.

“This act makes it difficult for citizens to file complaints. The complainant has to file an affidavit verified by a first class magistrate and also submit affidavits from any one who has provided him with evidence. If this was not all, the law also puts the life and liberty of the complainant in danger by disclosing the name of the complainant to the accused public servant,” the statement observed.

Moreover, it said the only power that the Lokayukta has is to punish a complainant, if he/she decides that a complaint is vexatious, frivolous or false. A complainant can be imprisoned and fined by the Lokayukta, thus discouraging any complaint.

“We strongly feel that this law ought to be repealed or at least amended. We also demand that government should stop the appointment of a powerless Lokayukta,” it said.

Recently, leader of Opposition Conrad K. Sangma asked chief minister Mukul Sangma to immediately appoint a Lokayukta and Up-Lokayukta in the state.