A PIL, an Act passed by the Meghalaya assembly and the stubborn stand of a politician have created a lot of confusion about the people’s perception about an ‘office of profit’. Many say it’s a battle between PN Syiem, the incumbent chief of the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC) and the chief minister Mukul Sangma. The PIL filed by Civil Society Women’s Organsiation (CSWO) president Agnes Kharshiing against holding of dual posts also played a major part in the episode. While the Meghalaya High Court gave a ruling in favour of PN Syiem recently while citing an order from the Governor, which was passed based on advice from Election Commission of India (ECI), the battle is not over yet. The chief minister’s latest remark that the MLAs have to hold dual posts “at their own risk” signals a lot more in store.

Leaving aside Constitutional provisions and rules and Acts framed by the state assembly – which of course cannot be ‘left aside’ – a person taking salary from public exchequer through two different positions should be considered as office of profit. This is a layman’s perspective. The office of the district council may not be included as one as ‘office of profit’. A person gets elected from the same constituency to two different Houses, which is also questionable as to how he can justify his obligations to both the public offices. And if the representative can fulfill both the obligations, why not from the same office? Why does he need a different House and separate salary. Does he work like a super human being? Here comes the question of the very relevance of the autonomous district councils for which a PIL is already pending with the High Court.

Meanwhile, there is a down side to having two different elected representatives from one constituency. A common man does not understand the different subjects of district council and state government. For him, his elected representative has to bring solution to all his problems. All these arguments again raise question on the relevance of district council. Some north-eastern states, during formation, did not opt for district councils and brought the whole state under one administration. There is no evidence of these states getting detached from their cultural and traditional roots, more than Meghalaya, over the decades. Meghalaya needs to ponder as to how long it can afford the continuous tussle between district councils and government, at the cost of the public interest?

(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on September 3, 2016)

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