HC raps 'inept' Kerala govt; flags ministers' overseas jaunts, inert IAS officers

HC raps 'inept' Kerala govt; flags ministers' overseas jaunts, inert IAS officers

Kochi: The Kerala High Court has come down hard on the Pinarayi Vijayan-led state government for ineptness in carrying out judicial orders. On Monday, the High Court slammed the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government in Kerala over its 'inefficient functioning' for failing to take action on a court order that was passed more than a year ago.

"If there is no attempt to implement the orders, then there is no point in passing judgments. Are ministers only interested in going on foreign trips? This court has lost its trust in the government," Justice Devan Ramachandran said.

The HC made the oral observations while considering a contempt of court petition against the government.

The court had ordered on October 17, 2018, to settle the salary arrears and other benefits of the former employees of the Kerala State Coconut Development Corporation within three months. While pointing out that most of the petitioners were elderly people, the court had specifically said that the action should not be further delayed.

However, the petitioners approached the court again, pointing out that no action was taken even one year after the order.

Bemoaning the poor state of affairs in the government, the judge quoted Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw - 'Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve.'

Further criticising the government machinery, the court said, "If the government is under the control of bureaucracy, then there is nothing left to say. Nothing more is expected."

The court also made harsh comments about the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officials. "IAS officials, sitting in air-conditioned rooms, are taking action without understanding the problems of the common man. There is no humanitarian consideration. Though money was received on leasing out Corporation’s land to the Kerala Feeds, the benefits did not reach the employees.

“The court gets to know how the government is spending its money through media reports daily," the HC said.

The case would be considered again on Tuesday.

CM's 13th foreign trip

Even when his government came under fire from the court, a team led by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan is on a tour to Japan and South Korea.

This also happens to be a time when the state is facing acute financial crunch. To disburse salary for the employees, the treasury has been kept on a tight leash, without parting money for any other purpose, for the past one month.

Apart from the CM, two ministers, senior officials and their family members are part of the tour. With the latest tour, Pinarayi would complete 13 foreign trips in nearly four years as CM.

The details of family members, accompanying ministers and officers on foreign trips, are not mentioned in the official records or in replies to the Right to Information queries. They could be spending on their own, or via some sponsor, instead of relying on the treasury.

Rs 80 lakh for 11-day trip

At least Rs 80 lakh would have to be shelled out for the 11-day trip to Japan and S Korea. The government is paying for the air fare, airport tax, hotel accommodation, bullet train ticket, medical aid and mobile phone-communication expenses. Apart from these, each member on tour would get 100 dollars as daily allowance.

To deal with any emergency situation in the foreign countries, Rs 10 lakh was transferred to the account of Suchitwa Mission director Mir Mohammed Ali, who is also part of the trip. This has been converted to 7 lakh in Japanese currency and 3 lakh in South Korean currency.'

The government is yet to give a satisfactory explanation on the CM's foreign trips, expenses and their benefits, though several RTI queries were sent and questions raised in the Kerala Assembly.

Oommen Chandy, who preceded Pinarayi, went on six foreign trips during his five-year term as the chief minister. However, CPM veteran V S Achuthanandan did not make any foreign trips when he was the CM from 2006 to 2011.