Holding dual posts is finally allowed in Meghalaya. Although the Meghalaya High Court has not exactly said this, but its order in favour of those elected representatives in the state assembly as well as district council meant nothing less. Both the member of legislative assembly (MLA) and member of district council (MDC) are paid salary from taxpayers’ money. And yet they are not to be considered office of profit, thanks to some constitutional loopholes. It was that loophole that gave a fresh lease life to Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC) chief PN Syiem, who is one of the ‘dual post’ holders. He remained adamant and refused to resign even as seven of his colleagues quit their posts in district council following the government passing an Act against the dual posts.
The high court order was based on an order of the governor which, after taking advice from the Election Commission of India (ECI), refused to take action against PN Syiem. The ECI order is perhaps based on the fact that holding office in district council is not mentioned in the book of law as an ‘office of profit’. But it clearly is. Otherwise, why on earth the MLA/MDC would try so hard to cling onto both the posts? There must be some ‘profit’.
The state government recently passed an Act, which has become redundant now after the high court order, against holding of dual posts. The Act was nothing but striking off a clause incorporated after the statehood to ensure that all erstwhile MDCs can become MLAs as well so that they need not share their constituency with others in the different Houses. However, over the years the number of MDCs becoming MLAs has declined, but some still continued to get the double privilege that led to lodging of a PIL by the Civil Society Women’s Organisation (CSWO). Although the PIL fell flat before the high court declaring that becoming an MLA and MDC at the same time is no crime, the court also allowed the petitioner to challenge the governor’s order itself. It is still far to declare that holding dual posts would still remain a practice in Meghalaya, despite the high court relief. Fingers are crossed.
(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on September 2, 2016)