The present argument for delay in appointment of the Lokayukta as given by the State government through its learned Advocate General is misleading, dishonest and disrespectful of public intelligence.
Naga Republic View
The manner in which the appointment of the Lokayukta has been handled in Nagaland so far, it is obvious that the State government was looking for some pretext to keep delaying the matter. Let us take an objective view of all that has happened.
Firstly, the Supreme Court of India has been asking for the last several months the reasons why those states, including Nagaland, could not implement the Lokayukta yet.
Despite the time and opportunity given by the court, it appears that the present political dispensation in Nagaland has been particularly slow in making a clear stand before the judiciary.
So much so that during the latest hearing (October 29), to the embarrassment of people of the State, the Supreme Court expressed its displeasure with the government’s submissions. It proves the lack of political will on the part of the government to set-up the much needed anti-corruption body.
The Nagaland Government’s position before the apex court was that in Section 3 of the current version of the Act, sub-section 1 states the Governor as the appointing authority of the Lokayukta, while sub-section 2 states that the State Government will appoint the Lokayukta, “creating confusion in the mind of the people as to who really is the appointing authority”.
And so what exactly is the problem, if any, in Section 3 (1) and (2) as argued by the State’s Advocate General and which is cited as the reason for the delay in appointing the Lokayukta?
First, Section 3 (1) states the Governor as the appointing authority of the Lokayukta. Second, Section 3 (2) states that the Lokayukta shall be appointed by the State Government after consultation with the Chief Justice of the Gauhati High Court, the Speaker of the Assembly and the leader of the Opposition.
As a matter of law, all official orders, including on transfer and posting of government officials, are done by the Governor. Even the Chief Minister or the Council of Ministers is appointed by the Governor’s office. Therefore the Governor as the appointing authority of the Lokayukta is the correct thing and there need not be any confusion.
Coming to the amendment sought i.e. Section 3(2), regarding setting up of the Lokayukta by the State Government, it is understood without a doubt that here the Chief Minister will have to take the initiative in selecting the Lokayukta and will definitely have a say because after all he is the head of the government.
Apparently, under the advice of the Advocate General, the Chief Secretary of Nagaland filed an affidavit before the Court saying that the Chief Minister has been kept out of the selection process by the previous government and for inclusion of the Chief Minister in the selection panel for appointment of the Lokayukta.
Was it necessary at all to argue the case for inclusion of the Chief Minister in the selection panel when the law itself makes it clear that the State government, which is headed by the Chief Minister, will appoint the Lokayukta?
Perhaps the Nagaland Lokayukta Act, 2017, which was passed during the previous NPF government, could have been drafted with more clarity mentioning the Chief Minister specifically. But even if there was a valid ground for correcting or amending Section 3(2), this could have been done during the recently concluded Assembly session.
As mentioned, some pretext to delay the appointment of the Lokayukta comes out quite clearly. And the excuse was found in Section 3 (1) and (2) of the Nagaland Lokayukta Act, 2017. And this, the learned Advocate General of Nagaland, KN Balgopal has put up as reason for the hold up!
The arguments put forward before the Supreme Court and even in the media by Nagaland’s Advocate General is not convincing at all.
The law officer to the Nagaland government should be pulled up for his incompetence in handling such an important matter of public interest where even the Supreme Court expressed ‘dissatisfaction’ with the response of the Chief Secretary.
Meanwhile the Supreme Court has given three months’ time to the Nagaland Government to make amendments to the Lokayukta Act to include the State Chief Minister in the selection committee for appointment of the Lokayukta in the State.
Why wait three months? If the present government is serious in its claim to fight corruption, it should demonstrate the political will, which at present is lacking.
The Neiphiu Rio government can easily bring in an ordinance and set the ball rolling for the setting up of the Lokayukta without any further delay and not necessarily having to wait for the deadline of three months given to the Supreme Court for appointing the Lokayukta.
The present argument for delay in setting up of the Lokayukta as given by the State government through its learned Advocate General is misleading, dishonest and disrespectful of public intelligence.