Thiruvanathapuram: Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala slammed the Kerala government's move to usurp the powers of Lokayukta through an ordinance.
Chennithala alleged that the government’s fear that action might come against Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and R Bindu has prompted it to take the decision to weaken the powers of Lokayukta.
He said the pending petitions against the chief minister and higher education minister were mainly responsible for the government decision to clip the wings of Lokayukta.
'Why such a hurry and secrecy'
The Congress leader said the government's decision to usurp the powers of the Lokayukta in a hurry and that too in the absence of the chief minister who is away in the US for treatment is highly condemnable. Chennithala asked as to why there is so much mystery and secrecy on a matter which can be decided by the chief minister online. He was reacting to the Cabinet decision accepting the draft ordinance.
Why did the Cabinet take just 15 minutes to decide on such an important issue and that too when the state assembly session is scheduled to be held next month? The chief minister of a party which always talks about wiping out corruption from public life and strengthening the Lok Pal mechanism has now taken a decision to completely water down the existing Lokayukta Act.
The fact the government did not inform the media about the Lokayukta decision amounts to a grave lapse. There is a fear in the ruling party circles that an adverse verdict might come in connection with the petitions pertaining to the utilisation of money from the Chief Minister's Distress Relief Fund and the complaint against higher education minister Bindu. It is this fear that has forced them to usurp powers of Lokayukta, Chennithala opined.
Cites Jaleel's case
When the Lokayukta verdict came against former minister K T Jaleel the government went to the high court and Supreme Court without any success. Not only that, the minister had to resign from the government, Chennithala recalled.
"Something similar is developing now in connection with Bindu and this realisation has forced the government to go for an ordinance immediately and block any adverse action in the coming days.
Not only that in the ordinance it is clearly stated that the government would conduct a hearing and take a decision within three months whether the Lokayukta verdict has to be implemented or not."
The government move that it would conduct a hearing and decide within three months whether the verdict of the Lokayukta has to be implemented or not wouldn't stand the legal scrutiny. In that case it is better to dissolve the Lokayukta, Chennithala added.
The ordinance amounts to insulting the people who have occupied the high position of supreme court judges and high court chief justices. The panel which decides the name for Lokayukta comprises of chief minister, speaker and the opposition leader. The government is liable to listen to the views of the speaker and opposition leader before taking a decision on slashing the powers of the Lokayukta. But it did not happen in this particular case.
Chennithala said this also indicated the anti-democratic attitude of the government. The Central government has come up with a new recommendation that prior permission of the appointing authority has to be taken in case if there is evidence against people’s representatives in corruption cases and a case has to be registered by the Vigilance. The state government, through this ordinance, has gone a step beyond the Centre.
'Pls don't sign on ordinance'
Chennithala urged the governor to refrain from signing on the ordinance which seeks to destroy the institution of Lokayukta.
Former high court judge Justice Kemal Pasha while reacting to the ordinance said that the government is indulging in such awful things to facilitate corruption in public places. The governor should throw the ordinance in the dustbin, he told Manorama News.
The draft ordinance which gives powers to the government to accept or reject the Lokayukta verdict was brought in the previous Cabinet and approved. The draft ordinance has now been sent to the governor for his assent.