Meghalaya officer tenders apology in assembly

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Shillong, March 23 (IANS) A senior Meghalaya official was on Thursday reprimanded before the 60-member state assembly for breaching the privilege of an Independent legislator, John Leslee K. Sangma.

“I openly and sincerely apologise to the Independent member, members of the Privilege Committee and members of the House,” Zenithsky J. Sangma, who stood at the Bar of the House, said.

Before Zenithksy was produced at the Bar of the House, opposition National People’s Party legislator James K. Sangma, who staged a walkout from the House, said: “On a matter of principle, I do not agree with the method of reprimanding the officer and I do not wish to be part of this proceeding. I would like to excuse myself from the proceeding.”

However, Speaker Abu Taher Mondal disallowed the NPP legislator to discuss the matter, saying: “It is too late now since the House has already adopted the report and summoned him.”

The assembly on Monday had adopted a report of the Privilege Committee tabled by Independent legislator Saleng A. Sangma, who is also the Chairman of the Committee.

In its report, the Committee had unanimously recommended summoning and reprimanding Zenithsky in the House and asking him to tender his apology in the assembly, failing which strong disciplinary action might be taken, including termination of his service.

After the Meghalaya official tendered his apology, Speaker Abu Taher Mondal sought the opinion of the House on whether the case against Zenithsky should be dropped.

Giving his opinion, Chief Minister Mukul Sangma said: “It is for the first time I am having this kind of experience of having a government officer reprimanded before the House. Let this incident be an example for all concerned to understand the power with which members are vested within the spirit of democracy.”

Mukul, a veteran Congress legislator, who in the past had been a member of the Privilege Committee, recalled: “If an issue of breach of privilege was brought before the Committee, the persons served with such notice always responded. This was the first instance after long time.”

“It is definitely unprecedented. Since the officer concerned has apologised, we don’t need to proceed further and drop the case,” the Chief Minister said.

Before withdrawing the case, the Speaker asked Zenithsky to bow his head to the Speaker’s chair and to the two sides of the House.

Zenithsky was the third person who appeared at the Bar of the House after Prosperly Chandra Chyne and Prof. Kapila Chatterjee in the Meghalaya assembly.

Chyne was reprimanded by the assembly on April 2, 1973 for criticising then Speaker R.S. Lyngdoh’s ruling and casting aspersions on the members of the House.

Two days later, Chatterjee was censured for publishing a libellous news item, “The bark of ignorant mischievous politicians”, and an equally defamatory editorial, “Privileges of legislators and assemblies” in Young-India, an English weekly.

–IANS

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