HC for minimum qualification, institution under RTI ambit
Election of traditiol heads
Shillong, Jan 13: The Meghalaya High Court on Wednesday, in its fil judgment on the issue of empowerment of headman, directed that there should be minimum qualification for contesting election to the office of a traditiol head even as it said that the office should come under the purview of the Right To Information.
“It appears that there is no uniformity in respect of customary laws, practices and usages as well as the provisions of law ected by Autonomous District Councils, apart from local legislation made by the concerned Autonomous District Council, which may cover customary laws, practices and usages prevailing in the Elaka or villages, there should be some common qualifications and eligibility criteria for contesting election to the office of Headman, and also regarding the term of office, the remuneration to be paid for performing the duties, and the ture of duties connected with the office etc,” the order said.
It may be mentioned that on December 10, 2014 the Meghalaya High Court had stripped the office of the headmen of the power to grant NOCs.
The High Court also recommended the state government to bring a suitable and comprehensive legislation to settle the controversies connected with this office once and for all.
It also observed that the very fact that the institution of the Headman acts as a tool of governce at the grass root level and is also being assigned an important role in implementing various programmes and schemes of the Central Government as well as the State, the office of the Headman also needs to be brought within the purview of the provisions of the Right to Information Act.
“Thus we direct the authorities to frame necessary Rules in this regard for furnishing required information connected with the activities of the Headman and his office and also about the Schemes, he is assigned to implement, besides other duties which the headmen are obligated to perform under the customary laws, practices and usages prevalent in their area as well as under various provisions of the Central and State ected Statutes,” the High Court said.
The Meghalaya High Court also said that the state should also include the Headman in the definition of “Public Servant” for the purpose of prosecution under the provisions of Crimil Law, particularly, the Prevention of Corruption Act in the case of allegations of committing any fincial irregularity or any other economic offences.
The High Court also said that a person holding the office of Headman should received remuneration.
According to the High Court the state government should make statutory provisions to have a fixed remuneration commensurate with the responsibilities being discharged by the person holding that office should be fixed so that he is able to perform his functions and duties honestly and with full dedication and devotion.
The High Court said that the Headman should receive remuneration considering he discharges duties under the Customary Laws as well as various Statutory provisions (in the absence of any other elected body at the grass root level), apart from being assigned with the additiol responsibility of implementing various Social and Government Schemes and programmes.
Moreover, the High Court also directed the State Government to ensure that no person with anti-tiol and crimil background is allowed to contest the election, and that as far as possible, the qualifications and eligibility criteria as provided under the Representation of Peoples Act 1951 and other Statutes for a candidate to contest the election to the State Assembly should also be made applicable to the case of candidates contesting the election for the post of Headman.
“Besides, we also provide that till the suitable legislation or an ordince during the pendency of the Bill is brought by the State Government, the directions passed in the impugned judgment which we affirm with modifications as the aforesaid shall remain in force,” the High Court directed.