State government moves bill to amend Nagaland Lokayukta Act

With deadline for appointment of new Lokayukta ending on August 5, bill proposes extension of vacancy period 

Moa Jamir 
Dimapur | August 4

In a major change, the State government proposed to enhance the deadline of filling up vacancy in the office of the Nagaland Lokayukta or Upa-Lokayukta from ‘not later than six months’ to one year. 

The ‘Nagaland Lokayukta Act (Amendment) No. 2 Bill, 2021’ seeking to ‘simplify and modify’ certain sections of Nagaland Lokayukta Act, 2017 (Act 1 of 2018) was introduced on the first-day of the eight session of 13th Nagaland Legislative Assembly on August 3. 

The Amendment Bill laid down by Nagaland Chief Minister and Minister in-charge of Department of Personnel & Administrative Reforms (DP&AR) also proposed to reduce the term of office of the Nagaland Lokayukta or Upa-Lokayukta from five years to three years, while adding another section for possibility of extension of Lokayukta’s term for two more years. 

Regarding the ‘Appointment of Lokayukta and Upa-Lokayukta,’ Section 3 (9)  of the Nagaland Lokayukta Act, 2017 reads:  “A vacancy occurring in the office of the Lokayukta or Upa-Lokayukta by reason of his/her death, resignation, retirement or removal-shall be filled in as soon as possible, but not later than six months from the date of occurrence of such vacancy.”

“In Section 3, Sub-Section (9), for the words ‘six months,’ the word ‘one year’ shall be substituted,” the Amendment Bill stated.

Meanwhile in Section 5, Sub-Section (1), which reads: ‘Every Person appointed to Lokayukta and Upa-Lokayukta shall hold the office for a term of five years from the date on which he enters upon his office or until the age of 70 years, whichever is earlier (sic),” the word ‘five’ is proposed to be substituted by ‘three.’ 

The following has been added to the Section 5, Sub-Section (1): “(C) The term of Lokayukta may be extended beyond three years by two more years.”

Dilution of Lokayukta’s role?
Meanwhile, in a significant proposal, the power of the State government to make rules for “carrying into effect the provision of the Act” seems to have been enhanced, while diluting that of the Lokayukta under the new amendment.

Section 32 (1) of the existing Act states: “The State Government may, in consultation with the   Lokayukta, make rules for the purpose of carrying into effect the provision of the Act.” The amendment proposed to delete the Lokayukta’s role.

“In Section 32, Sub-section (1), the following words ‘in consultation with the Lokayukta’ shall be deleted,” the Amendment Bill stated. 

Further, under Section (33) dealing with ‘Power of Lokayukta to Make Regulations,’ holding of setting of the Lokayukta or Upa- Lokayukta is proposed to be limited within the State of Nagaland.

While Section 32, Sub-section 2 (b) existing Act provides that Lokayukta can make rules on “Holding of the setting of the Lokayukta or Upa-Lokayukta at places other than the place of ordinary sittings,” the Amendment Bill proposed to add “within the State of Nagaland” in the provision. 

Thus, the Section 32, Sub-section 2 (b) after amendment would read as: “Holding of the setting of the Lokayukta or Upa- Lokayukta at places other than the place of ordinary sittings, within the State of Nagaland.”

The Morung Express on August 3 had reported that with the deadline approaching to appoint a new Nagaland Lokayukta, the State Government is planning to amend the Act, in a possible way out. 

The ‘stormy’ tenure of the previous Lokayukta ended on February 5, 2021, and accordingly, a new Nagaland Lokayukta should have been in place by August 5, 2021. 

With the Amendment Bill likely to be passed on the second day of the ongoing NLA session on August 5, the State government has presented itself with another six months reprieve.