Meghalaya Right to Information Movement campaigns for 'effective Lokayukta'

SHILLONG: Constitution of an 'effective and independent' Lokayukta (people's commissioner) could emerge as a major issue in the run-up to the Assembly elections in the state with the Meghalaya Right to Information Movement (MRIM) launching a campaign in this regard.

MRIM is holding meetings involving students and non-governmental organizations, besides a cross-section of people. Speaking at one such meeting here on Monday, MRIM member Michael Syiem said, "We shall try and make it (formation of an effective Lokayukta) an election issue by organizing a movement."

MRIM is also chalking out strategies to ensure that a bill in this regard is tabled during the winter session of the Assembly in December. It is also working on strategies against the Meghalaya Lokayukta and Up-Lokayukta Act, 2002, which MRIM views as a defunct government law,

According to activist Angela Rangad, the existing Act, for which rules were framed in 2007, is a "weak law" that has not been implemented for the past 10 years. Also, it does not have an investigative wing and has to depend on government bodies.

The Lokayukta, as envisaged by the state government, also does not have powers to common the Cabinet proceedings and the chief minister is not under the purview of the Act, she said. She added that under the present scheme of things, the state government has the power to "exclude investigation" against any public servant.

Rangad further said MRIM has already drafted an "effective law", which envisages a three-member Lokayukta. MRIM's draft says 'victimization' of a whistleblower will be considered as a corrupt act and that the recommendations of the Lokayukta, which should have independent investigation and prosecution wings, will be binding on the government. The suggestions have been submitted to the state government but the organization has not yet received any response.

MRIM's Syiem said it was because of an "awareness movement" that implementation of the Right to Information Act has been relatively successful in Meghalaya.

According to MRIM, the Lokayukta, who would be appointed by a selection committee comprising the chief minister, leader of opposition, sitting judge besides persons of "impeccable integrity" should be able to attach property and assets "acquired by corrupt means" and to "confiscate them".