UDF delegation to meet Governor on Lok Ayukta Ordinance

Oppn. sees bid to forestall fallout of judgments against Pinarayi, Bindu

Updated - January 26, 2022 10:01 am IST

Published - January 25, 2022 06:20 pm IST - Thiruvananthapuram

A controversial Ordinance seeking to "relegate the Kerala Lok Ayukta to a minor advisory role" is shaping up to be the next political battlefront between the Left Democratic Front government and the Opposition ahead of the upcoming 2022 Budget session of the Assembly.

Leader of the Opposition V. D. Satheesan, in an open letter to Governor Arif Mohammed Khan on Tuesday, requested him to reject the Ordinance that sought to "institutionalise corruption and close the final avenue for the public to appeal against nepotism and maladministration". He would lead an Opposition delegation to meet the Governor at Raj Bhavan on January 27.

Moreover, Mr. Satheesan said the Ordinance sought to diminish the stature of the Lok Ayukta by proposing to appoint lower court judges to the forum instead of a retired Supreme Court judge or a former Chief Justice of a High Court.

Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala, MLA, said the move to "dilute the powers of the Lok Ayukta" was to forestall the administrative fallout of possible adverse judgments against Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Higher Education Minister R. Bindu. The Lok Ayukta is investigating them on suspicion of corruption, nepotism and maladministration in separate cases.

Mr. Vijayan is facing the charge of illegally diverting the Chief Minister's Distress Relief Funds. The Lok Ayukta is investigating Dr. Bindu for writing to the Governor to "unlawfully extend" the tenure of the Vice Chancellor, Kannur University, beyond the retirement age.

Section 14

Mr. Chennithala said the LDF sought to undermine the forum's authority by amending Section 14 of the Kerala Lok Ayukta Act, 1999. The provision empowers the Lok Ayukta to throw a corrupt official from office and deter the offender from holding public office again.

Instead, the Ordinance seeks to empower the political executive, the Governor or Chief Minister as the case may be, to hold a further hearing on the Lok Ayukta's verdict. Subsequently, the executive could decide whether to abide by the Lok Ayukta's judgment or reject or moderate its ruling.

Mr. Chennithala said the government was painfully aware that an unfavourable Lok Ayukta judgment in a nepotism case had cost Left independent legislator K.T. Jaleel his Cabinet post in the previous LDF government. The CPI(M) could politically ill-afford to have such a fate befall Mr. Vijayan or Dr. Bindu.


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