Shillong, Sep 24 (IANS) The Meghalaya assembly on Thursday passed a bill to amend the Prevention of Disqualification (Members of the Legislative Assembly of Meghalaya) Amendment Bill, 2015 to prohibit people holding one public office from holding another elected office.
The bill was adopted by the assembly through a voice vote, amidst opposition member Hill State People’s Democratic Party (HSPDP) legislator K.P. Pangniang refused to withdraw his amendment to the bill seeking the implementation of the Prevention of Disqualification (Members of the Legislative Assembly of Meghalaya) Amendment Bill, 2015 bill from March 1, 2019, instead of October 1, 2015.
Pangniang, who is also an elected member of the Khasi Hill Autonomous District Council (KHADC), moved the amendment bill jointly with opposition United Democratic Party legislator and KHADC member Brolding Nongsiej.
They also asked the government to refer the bill to a select committee for examination, alleging the Congress-led government of having a mala-fide intention and hidden agenda in introducing the bill to prohibit legislators holding public office cannot hold another elected office.
In fact, the legislation is major blow to eight legislators cutting across party lines who are holding the public office as elected members of the KHADC and Jaintia Hill Autonomous District Council (JHADC).
District Council Affairs Minister Horju Donkupar Roy Lyngdoh and opposition HSPDP legislator Ardent Miller Basaiawmoit have already resigned as members of the KHADC in view of the new legislation.
The Mukul Sangma-led government brought the amendment to the prevention of disqualification Act following the Meghalaya High Court had asked Governor V. Shanmuganathan to take a decision on the issue of dual posts by September 29.
The directive from the court was after hearing an PIL filed by Civil Society Women’s Organisation, Agnes Kharshiing sought disqualification of the elected representatives who are members of both the assembly and district councils in the state under rule 17 (1) (a) of the Assam and Meghalaya Autonomous Districts (Constitution of District Councils) rules.
Supporting the amendment motion, leader of opposition and veteran UDP legislator, Donkupar Roy argued that the house violated the rules of procedure and conduct of the Assembly as the matter relating to the legislators holding dual posts was sub-judice.
Roy also feared that the purpose of the bill was to target the present chief executive member of the KHADC, P.N. Syiem, who is also Congress member in the assembly.
“I am afraid that there is a talk that the main target is the chief executive member of the KHADC. We should not modify the bill to ambush our friends. If this bill is brought prior to the election, perhaps everyone will accept it. The spirit (of the bill) is good, but the timing is wrong,” the UDP legislator said.
Roy also suggested the government to refer the bill to a select committee of the assembly for further deliberations to decide which post is an office of profit.
Other legislators, who also opposed the passage of the bill include UDP legislators Paul Lyngdoh, Metbah Lyngdoh and H.B. Nongsiej, HSPDP MLA Ardent M. Basaiawmoit and Independent legislator John Leslee K. Sangma.
Defending the bill, Chief Minister Sangma argued the legislation was about “setting things right in the spirit of the Constitution so that we are able to confront a situation without being caught unaware”.
“There is no question of ambush or mala fide intention. The legislation is required and its purpose is to set things right in sync with the spirit of the Constitution so that we will not be caught unaware and confronted by any situation,” he aid.
He also informed the house that the legislation will come into immediate effect.