Assembly sends Lok Ayukta amendment Bill to Subject Committee

Opposition objects to tabling the "unconstitutional" amendment

Published - August 23, 2022 08:52 pm IST - Thiruvananthapuram

The Assembly sent the Kerala Lok Ayukta (Amendment) Bill, 2022, to the Subject Committee despite strong objections from the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) Opposition.

The debate over the Bill saw Law Minister P. Rajeeve having a duel with Leader of Opposition V.D. Satheesan over the constitutionality of the proposed law. Mr. Satheesan said the Bill empowered the executive to adjudicate on the decree passed by a judicial body.

He said Mr. Rajeeve had paved the way for the executive to rob the powers of the anti-corruption Ombudsman. The Bill ran against the doctrine of the separation of powers guaranteed by the Constitution.

He said the Bill envisaged empowering the Chief Minister as the competent authority, instead of the Governor, accepting or rejecting an adverse declaration by the anti-corruption Ombudsman (under Section 14 (5) of the Kerala Lok Ayukta, Act, 1999.) against Cabinet Ministers.

A declaration under the provision makes it incumbent on the competent authority to remove the person from public office. It also envisions banning the errant official from holding public office again.

(The Bill will assume final form only after vetting by the Subject Committee. By some accounts, the Opposition believes the government proposes the Assembly, instead of the Governor, as the competent authority to comply with or turn down the Lok Ayukta's unfavourable declaration against the Chief Minister. The official Bill is likely to provide more clarity on the matter.)

Mr. Satheesan said the Bill violated the fundamental right to equality before the law. At a stroke, it has placed the political executive above judicial scrutiny. The Bill accorded the executive appellate jurisdiction over the judiciary. The amendment aspired to vest unqualified judicial power in the executive.

By proposing to bestow appellate authority on the Chief Minister, the government had violated the principle of natural justice that "no one should be a judge in their own cause (Nemo judex in causa sua).

Mr. Satheesan termed the Bill colourable legislation. The Bill had shamed the Assembly, which passed scores of landmark legislations. The government had forayed into an area where it had no right to pass laws. The government wanted to shred a law that was an effective guard rail against corruption.

Mr. Rajeeve countered Mr. Satheesan's argument that the Lok Ayukta is a quasi-judicial body with adjudication powers equivalent to a civil court. "It is an investigation mechanism, not a judicial body. The Lok Ayukta cannot conduct an investigation and pass judgement simultaneously. Such powers are against the principles of jurisprudence. The current law is against the Act's preamble," he said.

Mr. Satheesan countered by asking what competency the executive had to declare a law passed by the Assembly as unconstitutional. Only the court has such jurisdiction., he said.

Mr. Rajeeve retorted that the Assembly had the right to amend laws. "Legislation is a dynamic process. It is not static," he said. Speaker M.B. Rajesh rejected the Opposition's objections to tabling the Bill.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.