GUWAHATI, June 29 � The Government of India has initiated steps for amending the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution of India for bringing more accountability to the Autonomous Councils formed under the Schedule. This was disclosed by the Union Home Secretary GK Pillai.
Talking to The Assam Tribune, the Union Home Secretary said that the Centre already held series of discussions in this regard with the concerned State Governments and a draft legislation for amending the Sixth Schedule has been prepared. He said that the draft legislation has been sent to the concerned states for their comments and the amendment is likely to take place by the end of this year. "We hope that the Sixth Schedule will be amended during the winter session of the Parliament," he added.
Commenting on the proposals made in the draft legislation, Pillai said that the main aim is to make the Councils formed under the Sixth Schedule more accountable. He said that as per the draft, the accounts of the Councils would be audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) every year. Moreover, the draft has provision for formation of village councils under the Autonomous Councils for devolution of powers to the grass root level.
Replying to a question as to why the accounts of the Autonomous Councils were not audited for years, Pillai said that the State Governments have the power to do so through the Accountant General. However, after the amendment of the Sixth Schedule, auditing of the accounts would become a statutory provision, which would ensure regular auditing of the accounts.
It may be mentioned here that the move for amending the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution started after large scale irregularities in North Cachar Hills Autonomous Council came to light following investigation of a case relating to the politician-militant nexus by the National Investigation Agency (NIA). Following the NIA investigation, the office of the Accountant General was entrusted with the responsibility of auditing the accounts of the Council and the AG special audit also pointed out glaring irregularities and siphoning off of government funds. The accounts of the NC Hills Councils as well as the other Autonomous Councils were not audited regularly because of lack of statutory provisions and till the NIA investigation, no one knew what was going on in the Council.
Meanwhile, Deputy Chief of the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC), Khampa Borgoyari said that the BTC has requested the State Government time and again to ensure regular audit of the accounts but till date, no step has been taken in this regard. He said that the BTC also approached the AG office for auditing the Council accounts, "but we were told by the AG office that they can go for such an audit only if the State Government issues an order in this regard."