Lok Ayukta rejects plea to oust Bindu

Chennithala failed to substantiate allegations

Published - February 04, 2022 08:01 pm IST - Thiruvananthapuram

The Left Democratic Front (LDF) government seemed to heave a sigh of relief on Friday when the Kerala Lok Ayukta rejected a plea by Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala to oust Higher Education Minister R. Bindu from office on charges of maladministration, abuse of power and nepotism.

Under incessant attack from the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) Opposition, the Minister appeared to have cleared a formidable legal and political hurdle to the relief of the ruling front.

Mr. Chennithala had alleged that Ms. Bindu had overstepped her constitutional bounds by putting “undue pressure” on Governor Arif Mohammed Khan to extend the term of the Kannur University Vice Chancellor beyond the retirement age.

He argued that Ms. Bindu had abused her position as a Minister and was guilty of nepotism and favouritism. Mr. Chennithala had sought a “declaration of guilt” against the Minister under Section 14 of the Kerala Lok Ayukta Act, 1999.

Such a declaration under Section 14 would make it bounden on the “competent authority”, the Chief Minister in the case of a Cabinet Minister, to bar the person at fault from holding public office.

A ruling under the Section had singularly cost LDF Independent K.T. Jaleel, MLA, his Cabinet berth in the previous Pinarayi Vijayan government. Notably, the rule has no appeal provision.

Mr. Chennithala had argued that the appointment of the Vice Chancellor was the exclusive prerogative of the Chancellor as per Section 10 of the Kannur University Act.

The Minister as the Pro Chancellor had no role in the selection process. She could only exercise the functions of the Chancellor in the Governor’s absence. The Act did not give any authority to the Pro Chancellor to make “any recommendation or suggestion” to the Chancellor.

Kerala Lok Ayukta Cyriac Joseph and Upa Lok Ayukta Harun-Ul-Rashid took a contrarian view. They said the “materials placed on record,” including government files, did not indicate the Minister had put pressure on the Governor.

She had only conveyed to the Chancellor her opinion that the incumbent, Gopinath Raveendran, should continue for another term as Vice Chancellor. Ms. Bindu pointed out that Section 10 (10) of the university Act provided for reappointment of an incumbent Vice Chancellor, age no bar.

She was well within her powers to recommend the disbanding of the selection committee for choosing the Vice Chancellor. The Minister had also obtained a legal opinion from the Advocate General.

The judges ruled that Mr. Chennithala had produced no material to substantiate his allegations against the Minister. Hence, there was no legal or factual basis for Mr. Chennithala’s allegations. The court dismissed the plea.

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