House passes Amendment Bill by voice vote
SHILLONG: The Meghalaya Legislative Assembly on Thursday passed the Prevention of Disqualification (Members of the Legislative Assembly of Meghalaya) (Amendment) Bill, 2015 which bars MLAs from holding dual elected posts by voice vote, despite Opposition members making a passionate plea through an amendment motion to make the Bill effective from March, 2019 or refer it to a Select Committee.
Though the Bill was passed, Phlastingwell Pangniang (HSPDP), who had moved an amendment motion against the Bill, refused to withdraw the motion.
Some of the Opposition members hinted during the discussion in the Assembly that the Bill was brought to target KHADC CEM P.N. Syiem, which was denied by Chief Minister Mukul Sangma, who stated that there was no ill motive on the part of the Government and added that the timing was appropriate.
The chief minister also said that it was after due diligence that the Bill was framed.
With the passing of the Bill, eight legislators-cum-MDCs Stephanson Mukhim (Independent), H.D.R. Lyngdoh (Congress), Ardent Miller Basaiawmoit (HSPDP), Metbah Lyngdoh (UDP), Pyngshngainlang Syiem (Congress), Phlastingwell Pangniang (HSPDP), Sanbor Shullai (NCP) and Brolding Nongsiej (UDP) will be prevented from holding dual posts with effect from October 1.
While Mukhim is the lone MDC in the JHADC, the remaining seven are members of the KHADC.
Out of the eight MLAs-cum-MDCs, H.D.R. Lyngdoh tendered his resignation as MDC on Wednesday, while Ardent Basaiawmoit quit on Friday.
After the Bill was taken up in the Assembly, Phlastingwell Pangniang (HSPDP) and Brolding Nongsiej (UDP), who are also MDCs, jointly moved an amendment motion against the Bill. Pangniang contended that the legislation should be made effective from March, 2019.
“The Treasury Bench is attempting to bring the Bill and the outcome is that this will affect the MDCs who were duly elected with proper mandate,” Pangniang said.
He also made a passionate plea urging the Government not to victimize the eight MLAs who are holding the post of MDCs.
Brolding Nongsiej (UDP) said that if the Government can extend the tenure of GHADC for one and a half years, the same Government can wait till the completion of the tenure of the present KHADC and the Bill can be made applicable from 2019.
Echoing the same views, Witting Mawsor (HSPDP) said that there was no need for the Government to hurry. “A perfect Bill can be brought at the perfect hour,” Mawsor said.
Opposition Leader Donkupar Roy said that there was no need for the Government to hurry and pass the Bill.
Roy also criticized the Government for the selective use of the ‘sub judice’ angle when it came to discussing matters related to the Umroi Airport whereas the Government chose to introduce the Bill on dual posts though the matter is pending with the High Court.
He also made it clear that Court cannot give any direction to the legislators to amend any law as the Court can only interpret the existing laws.
“No Court can direct Government to amend the law when the case is pending in the court,” Roy asserted.
According to Roy, the Government should either send the Bill to a select committee or the legislators who are MDCs should be allowed to continue till the end of the current term.
Paul Lyngdoh (UDP) brought out grammatical errors and wrong construction of sentences in the Bill during the discussion to prove that there was a sense of urgency on the part of the Government to pass the Bill.
He pointed out that instead of disqualification the Bill had the split word “this qualification”.
Lyngdoh also read out another sentence which said, “The intension of this provision is only to them to contest the election” which according to the legislator does not make any sense.
Citing the inefficiency of the Law department, Lyngdoh pointed out the during a hearing in March this year, the Advocate General was pulled up by the High Court due to the absence of government lawyers in the court.
Lyngdoh also wanted to know from the Government whether it was fair on the part of the MLAs to hold the posts of Chairman, Parliamentary Secretaries enjoying the perks and allowances. Without mentioning the name, Lyngdoh pointed out that a nominated MDC also enjoys the extra benefit of being a Vice-Chairman of Government undertaking.
“Where is the question of fairness when it comes to duly elected MDCs who have to leave mid-way?” Lyngdoh asked, while pointing out that the tenure of the GHADC continued for over six years.
Highlighting the supremacy of the House, Lyngdoh said that if the process of legislation is directed by the Court, the legislators will become reactive and not pro-active and there should not be any panic reaction.
He also quoted the Supreme Court verdict of August 25, 2009, which did not interfere with the decision of the Parliament to exempt 55 offices occupied by MPs from the office of profit so that they are not disqualified.
The Supreme Court was of the opinion that the Parliament had the right to amend the law.
Lyngdoh wanted the Government to make the legislation applicable from the prospective effect.
Ardent Basaiawmoit (HSPDP) who took part in the discussion wanted the Court to decide on pending case and also insisted that the Government should make the Bill effective from 2019.
Metbah Lyngdoh (UDP) and John Leslee Sangma (Independent) said that the decision to stop dual posts mid way was not appropriate as they wanted this to be effective from the next term.
However, defending the move of the Government, D.D. Lapang (Congress), said that it was constitutionally illegal to hold dual posts. “The purpose of the Government is not to target anyone, but the matter has become urgent for the Government,” he said.
In his reply, the chief minister said that all the legislators including the mover of the amendment motion feel the need to come up with the legislation.
On the issue of timing of the legislation, the chief minister made it clear that legislative privilege should not be used to settle political scores. “The intent of the Government is clear and the right time has come to initiate this legislation,” he said.
The chief minister also said that the Government does not make laws with prospective effect.
According to the chief minister, there was no mala-fide intention in bringing the Bill. It was the legislative requirement which the state government adhered to, he said.
“We re-assure that this measure is for setting things right in line with the provisions of the Constitution without being caught unaware. We will be serving the same people even if one relinquishes one post,” Sangma said.
Deputy Chief Minister in charge Law, Rowell Lyngdoh, said the law has to be always from the retrospective effect or with immediate effect and not from prospective effect.
“But in this case, the legislation will be effective from October 1 for the convenience of all,” he said.
Lyngdoh said that the Bill was necessitated to “safeguard the legislative mandate of the moments”. Moreover, popular aspirations are that MLAs should not be MDCs, he said.
Later, since the mover of the amendment motion decided not to withdraw the motion, it was rejected by voice vote enabling the House to pass the Bill.