Meghalaya legislative assembly has proved how powerful an MLA is. A bureaucrat was compelled to bow before the 60-member House for breach of privilege of a member. The former chief executive officer of Tura Municipal Board (TMB) Zenithsky Sangma lodged FIRs against MLA John Leslee K Sangma in February 2015 accusing him of interfering in the matters of TMB besides disrupting an officer from conducting his official duties in the town. Following this, the legislator lodged a complaint with the Privilege Committee seeking action into the false allegations against an elected member of the Assembly lowering his dignity as a member. John Leslee admitted to have objected to the Board forcing traders to move in to a new building in the absence of a proper parking lot but that he did not instigate the traders.

There are a number of allegations against the political leaders coming up every day. Dozens of FIRs are perhaps lodged against politicians every day in the country. While some of these allegations are genuine some are false or partly true. But there is hardly any instance of an accuser in a ‘false’ allegation being made to seek apology in front of an entire legislative assembly, in front of live cameras. The exception here is that the accuser is a bureaucrat, meaning servant of government. Although he is a servant of the people who elect the MLAs, his apology has not carried the message that the he said sorry to the people. The only message it gave was the ‘power’ of an MLA. In guise of ‘breach of privilege’, the House actually showed off its power and almost scared and humiliated the entire bureaucratic class.

The House was so prepared to get an apology, which the chief minister said happened once in 1972-73, a dock was built for the particular purpose. The former SMB chief stood on the dock like a criminal and bowed to all the MLAs and said, “I profoundly and sincerely express my apology to John Leslee K Sangma and to the members of the privilege committee and this House.” Even hardened criminals who surrender to join ‘mainstream’, are not compelled to face such embarrassment. The MLA, if so offended, could have taken legal course against the official by filing defamation suit or whatever legal provision is available. He would have been less embarrassed. This has actually set a precedence which would prevent sincere bureaucrats from pointing out mistake of their political bosses. The MLAs also now run the risk of being misled by or ignored by the bureaucrats. Had one single MLA been compelled to seek public apology for his or her misdeeds.

(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on March 25, 2017)

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