Governor seeks legal advice on Lokayukta Act amendment

Kerala Governor Arif Muhammad Khan
Kerala Governor Arif Muhammad Khan. File photo: Manorama

Thiruvananthapuram: The Left Democratic Front Government has courted controversy over the move to bring in an ordinance for amending the key provisions of the Lokayukta Act. The government's move is allegedly aimed at diluting the strong provisions contained in the present Act to bring to book the corrupt political executives.

Governor Arif Mohammed Khan reportedly decided to seek legal opinion on the new amendments passed by the State Cabinet which was sent to him for approval. If necessary, the opinion of the legal experts in Delhi will be elicited by the Governor.

As per the main amendment, even if the Lokayukta barred those in power from continuing in their governmental position due to corruption, the authorities can ignore the Lokayukta verdict by conducting a hearing within three months and either accept or reject the Lokayukta order.

The Opposition's allegation is that the new ordinance was hurriedly brought in in view of the cases pending against Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Higher Education Minister R Bindu in the Lokayukta.

Ministers go through draft

Sources say many ministers came to know about the real nature of the amendment when they got the draft of the ordinance the other day.

The ministers were reportedly told at the online Cabinet meeting last week that some minor changes were effected in the Lokayukta Act in view of the High Court's observation that the seat of Lokayukta has only recommendatory powers.

Main amendments

1. Under Section 14 of the Lokayukta Act, the authorities are compelled to remove ministers or any authority from office if found indulging in corruption. But if the new amendment is put in force, this provision will lose its teeth as the authorities can either accept or reject the Lokayukta order after conducting a hearing in the case within three months.

2. As per the existing provision, a person can only be appointed as Lokayukta if he had previously served as either Supreme Court Judge or High Court Chief Justice. But as per the new amendment, a High Court Judge can become Lokayukta.

CPM's defence

Meanwhile, the government and the CPM justified the move by saying that it was done as per the advice of the Advocate General. The AG had given such a recommendation after KT Jaleel had to resign from the previous Pinarayi Vijayan Ministry owing to the adverse verdict against him by the Lokayukta in a corruption case.

What is ostensibly worrying the government and the CPM is a case against the Chief Minister that is currently pending in the Lokayukta. It challenges his decision to grant financial assistance from the CM's Relief Fund to the families of the departed leaders such as former NCP State president Uzhavoor Vijayan and former Chengannur MLA KK Ramachandran Nair.

A case against Higher Education Minister R Bindu in connection with her letter sent to the Governor in connection with the reappointment of the Kannur Vice-Chancellor is also pending before the Lokayukta.

UDF team to visit Governor

An opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) team would meet the Governor on Thursday with the plea that he should not sign the ordinance. The delegation would be led by Opposition Leader in the Assembly VD Satheesan.

On Tuesday itself, Satheesan sent a protest letter to the Governor on the matter. Even retired judges have come out against the new ordinance.  

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