The CPM-led LDF government's controversial move to amend the Lokayukta Act has drawn criticism from within the front. Amid stiff protest raised by the Congress-led opposition, the CPI, the second biggest ally of the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) on Wednesday questioned the government's move to take the Ordinance route to bring in the amendments.
CPI state secretary Kanam Rajendran said there was no need to bring it out an Ordinance when the Assembly session is slated to be held within a month. “This is the root cause of the protest against the move. Had the government introduced it as a Bill in the assembly everyone would have got a chance to air their opinion on the matter. It's a fact that the necessary political consultations have not been done about the move,” he said.
The CPI's difference of opinion came out a day before the opposition, United Democratic Front's (UDF) scheduled to meet with Governor Arif Mohammad Khan to raise their concerns against the Ordinance.
A UDF delegation, led by Leader of the Opposition V D Satheesan, will be meeting the Governor on Thursday to urge him not to sign the Ordinance.
Satheesan vs Rajeev
Meanwhile, the dispute between the ruling front and the opposition parties over the Ordinance continued on Wednesday. Satheesan, at a press meet in Ernakulam, questioned State Law Minister P Rajeev's claim that the Ordinance was being brought out based on a high court order. "We are not against bringing in a clause that would allow one to appeal against an order by the Lokayukta. We will not oppose if the government brings in a clause that one can challenge a Lokayukta order in the high court. But how can the chief minister and some officials become the appellate authority?" Satheesan asked.
In reply, Rajeev said Satheesan may not have read the high court order fully. "Lokayukta can only recommend an action. It can't issue a directive," he said. Rajeev reiterated that the amendment was meant to correct an anti-Constitutional law at the earliest. He said the Ordinance was brought out after a collective decision by the state cabinet.
On Tuesday, the Congress and the BJP tore into the chief minister saying the Ordinance was meant to save Pinarayi Vijayan and his cabinet colleague State Higher Education Minister R. Bindu who is facing serious charges before the Kerala Lokayukta.
In 2021 April, soon after the Assembly elections, the Kerala Lokayukta ruled that the then State Higher Education Minister KT Jaleel had violated his oath of office by appointing his relative to a key government post. Jaleel had to quit following the order.
The present ordinance dilutes the Lokayukta's power to order the removal of a public servant found guilty of misuse of power. Once the proposed amendment comes into force, the last word on a Lokayukta verdict will rest with the "competent authority", mostly the Chief Minister.
The Lokayukta Amendment ordinance was approved during the last Cabinet meeting that the chief minister chaired online from the US where he is undergoing medical treatment.