A day after the Voice of the People Party (VPP) threatened to hit the street in protest against the removal of three officers of the State Lokayukta and interference by the government in the functioning of anti-corruption body, the ruling NPP today came forward to defend the State government’s decision.
Addressing media persons at the party office here, NPP spokesman and adviser to the Education Department Himalaya M. Shangpliang today maintained that the government has never interfered in the appointment or the selection of the officers to the State Lokayukta.
Shangpliang said that in December 2023 the office of the Meghalaya Lokayukta appointed IAS officer Israel W. Ingty as the director of inquiry of Lokayukta, including three others as enquiry officials. He also said that the order has been issued by the chairperson Meghalaya Lokayukta on December 19, 2023.
“This means that the office of the Meghalaya Lokayukta is fully functional now, with regular officials drawn from the services of the government. On behalf of the party I would like to clarify one thing that there has never been any occasion or any time where the chief minister or the government has ever interfered in the appointment or the selection of the officers to be sent to the Lokayukta, nor has the chief minister and his office has ever interfered in any such cases related where the Lokayukta is handling,” Shangpliang said.
Shangpliang also said that as per Section 10(2) and 11 of the Meghalaya Lokayukta Act, 2014, officers or staff of the State Lokayukta must come from the government. He also said that retired government officials cannot be part of the Lokayukta.
According to him, the previous officers were retired personnel from the Home (Police) Department and their appointments were an interim measure by the government. He further informed that the appointment for the Director of Inquiry was issued in October 2022 while the inquiry officers were appointed in March 2023.
Cabinet minister Ampareen Lyngdoh who was also present at the press conference said that the government had only corrected certain anomalies in the State Lokayukta.
“As per the Meghalaya Lokayukta Act 2014 the government of Meghalaya had recognised certain anomalies in the selection of certain members who were appointed to the Lokayukta both as the director of inquiry and director of prosecution. Having seen this anomaly, the government has thought it fit that necessary corrections are to be made and, as per the mandate of the act the government has recommended to the Lokayukta who is the authorised individual appointing its members. A panel of names was sent to the office of the Meghalaya Lokayukta and accordingly, corrections were made and the officers selected,” she added.
“It is the wish of this government to reassure its citizens that we shall not interfere in constitutional bodies and their functions and we give a commitment to the people of Meghalaya that any perceived misconception should be corrected,” Lyngdoh said.
There was hue and cry in the State after the State government removed three Lokayukta officials who included Director of Inquiry and Prosecution Jainal Rymmai and two enquiry officers – Rymphang Pde and Anil K. Sangma.
There were allegations that the removal of the three officials was related to their findings regarding a Rs 6.01 crore scam in the construction of MDC Hostel in Tura and the charge sheet of sitting NPP MLA Sanjay Sangma who is a relative of Chief Minister Conrad Sangma and several MDCs besides a former principal secretary of GHADC and a contractor.
After sacking the three Lokayukta officials, the State Lokayukta on December 19, 2023 appointed IAS officer Israel W. Ingty as the Director of Inquiry and Prosecution, along with three MPS officers – Chalang G. Momin, John Clitzer A. Sangma, and Baniateilang Diengngan as members.