Governor withholds assent to Meghalaya Lokayukta Bill

Shillong, Jan 24 : Meghalaya Governor R.S. Mooshahary has withheld his assent to the controversial Meghalaya Lokayukta Bill passed in the state assembly by the Mukul Sangma-led government.

"I have returned the Lokayukta Bill to the government with certain observations regarding the terms and conditions of the office of the Lokayukta and its members besides other provisions," Mooshahary told IANS Wednesday.

The bill was tabled and passed in the assembly Dec 14 without discussion and legislators of opposition Nationalist Congress Party walked out of the house in protest, saying they would not be part of a bill that has inherent flaws and weaknesses.

Opposition leader Conrad K. Sangma had pointed out the "discrepancies" in the bill, alleging it was a "carbon copy" of the Meghalaya Lokayukta and Up Lokayukta Act, 2002.

The government had brought the bill to repeal the 2002 act after anti-graft activists termed the Meghalaya Lokayukta Act, 2002 as too "weak and outmoded" to deal with corruption cases.

"The chief minister had said that Meghalaya would show the way of fighting corruption. But the bill is nowhere near that. It is a mere carbon copy of the 2002 act," Conrad had said.

The United Democratic Party (UDP), a key ally in the Congress-led Meghalaya United Alliance government, too opposed the Bill saying it suffered from serious deformities and in some cases the provisions were confusing and vague.

"The bill suffered from serious deformities and more time is required to study the bill and its ramifications," UDP legislator Paul Lyngdoh 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.