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HC blow to State Govt

Court against non-judicial member becoming Lokayukta chief

SHILLONG: In a blow to the State government, the High Court of Meghalaya has struck down a clause framed by the government in the Lokayukta Bill 2014 which allowed a non-judicial member to become the Chairperson of Lokayukta.
The Court also issued notice to the State government in this regard and fixed the next date of hearing on December 16.
In fact, the new Lokayukta Bill 2014 was passed by State Assembly in March, 2014 after amending the erstwhile Lokayukta Bill which had even allowed an officer of the rank of Secretary to the Government of India or Chief Secretary of a State to become the Chairperson of the Lokayukta.
However, under protests from pressure groups, the government had omitted this part but retained that an eminent person who has impeccable integrity and knowledge of anti-corruption policy for at least 25 years can be appointed as Chairperson.
As per the Meghalaya Lokayukta Bill 2014 which received the Governor’s assent on March 26, 2014, the Chairperson will be an individual “who is or has been a Chief Justice of the High Court or a Judge of the High Court or an eminent person who fulfils the eligibility of having impeccable integrity and knowledge of anti-corruption policy for at least 25 years”.
The eminent person should have “outstanding ability having special knowledge and expertise of not less than 25 years in the matters relating to anti-corruption policy, public administration, vigilance, finance including insurance and banking, law and management”.
However, taking a suo moto case, the Division Bench of the High Court of Meghalaya comprising Chief Justice Uma Nath Singh and Justice T.N.K. Singh, while expressing reservation on the eligibility criteria of having a non-judicial member for the post of Chairperson of Lokayukta, said the provision providing such eligibility criterion requires judicial scrutiny for the same eligibility cannot be provided for the Chairperson and for a member other than the Judicial Member of the Lokayukta.
The High Court said that the Central Lokpal and Lokayukta Act of 2013 does not prescribe any eligibility criteria for Lokayukta and Upa-Lokayukta.
That apart, other states including Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh, looking to adjudicatory nature of work, has provided the eligibility criteria like a former Judge of Supreme Court; a Chief Justice of High Court or a Judge of High Court, whereas, the eligibility criteria provided in the Meghalaya Lokayukta Act, 2014, inter alia includes a criterion whereby an eligible non-Judicial person can also be appointed as the Chairperson, the Court observed.

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