Thiruvananthapuram: The move to amend the Kerala Lokayukta Act, 1999, through an ordinance is seen as an attempt to avoid a possible backlash against the Left Democratic Front government over five cases that are currently under the consideration of the anti-graft watchdog.
Any adverse verdict on the cases would put Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and 16 former ministers in the dock.
The draft ordinance is currently under the consideration of the governor.
Of the five cases, three are related to payouts from the Chief Minister's Distress Relief Fund (CMDRF). Former LDF ministers A K Balan, E Chandrasekharan, K T Jaleel, Kadakampally Surendran, M M Mani, Mathew T Thomas, J Mercykutty Amma, A C Moideen, K Raju, Ramachandran Kadannappally, T P Ramakrishnan, C Raveendranath, K K Shailaja, G Sudhakaran, P Thilothaman and T M Thomas Isaac had attended the cabinet meeting that took the decision on the CMDRF.
They were ministers in the previous Pinarayi Vijayan dispensation (2016-21).
Former minister V S Sunilkumar had not attended the meeting and was hence excluded from the case.
The five cases
1. A petition questioning the granting of Rs 25 lakh from the CMDRF for the education of NCP's late state president Uzhavoor Vijayan's daughter.
2. Petition against spending from CMDRF Rs 8 lakh to take back mortgaged gold belonging to the late former MLA K K Ramachandran Nair, and Rs 6 lakh to repay his car loan. The amount was spent following his death.
3. Granting of Rs 20 lakh from the CMDRF to the family of a policeman in CPM state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan's security detail. The policeman was killed in an accident involving the pilot car of Balakrishanan. This amount was apart from other rightful benefits of his family.
The petitions were filed by activist R S Sasikumar, who alleged that the money meant for those in distress was illegally granted to those close to the government.
4. A petition by RTI activist Akhila Khan, who questioned the claims of Women's Commission member Shahida Kamal that she had graduated from the University of Kerala and took doctorate from Vietnam University. Khan alleged that Kamal lacked the integrity to be included in the Women's Commission. The judgment is awaited in this case.
5. A petition by Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala against Minister R Bindu on the reappointment of the vice-chancellor of Kannur University. Chennithala alleged that the minister writing to the governor seeking the reappointment amounted to corruption and misuse of power. The Lok Ayukta has sought the relevant documents from the government in the case.
Any citizen can file a case before the Lokayukta by remitting a fee of Rs 50. If the petitioner cannot afford an advocate to represent him/her, he/she can argue the case himself/herself.
The anti-graft ombudsman could be approached by any citizen against people's representatives or government officials, if the power they wield is misused for corruption. Currently, about 800 cases are pending before the Lokayukta. In fact, the government has been reluctant to implement several orders passed by the anti-graft body.
However, Lok Ayukta's order had resulted in the resignation of K T Jaleel from the previous Pinarayi cabinet. The ordinance will help the government to avoid such incidents, though people look up to the Lokayukta as a mechanism to fight corruption.