Chief Minister's 'fear', law minister's 'illegal' declaration and Chennithala's absence

Pinarayi Vijayan, VD Satheesan, P Rajeev
Pinarayi Vijayan, VD Satheesan, P Rajeev

Thiruvananthapuram: Opposition leader V D Satheesan on Monday said that it was fear that prompted the LDF government to considerably weaken Kerala Lokayukta. "Why are you so afraid just because there are four cases against you (in the Lokayukta)," Satheesan asked Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan during an adjournment motion in the Assembly on the Lokayukta amendment issue. "It is fear that is governing you, " he said.

Congress MLA Sunny Joseph, who moved the adjournment motion, referred to the Chief Minister's 2019 article in the Chintha Magazine in which he had proudly stated that the ombudsman in Kerala, unlike in other states, could not just bark but also bite. "What made you change your thinking (chintha) so suddenly," Sunny Joseph said.

Satheesan said the Chief Minister had a rethink "after the Lokayukta used its sharp teeth to bite a man". A clear reference to former higher education minister K T Jaleel who had to step down after the Lokayukta charged him with nepotism.

The Opposition Leader said that on one side the judicial body had its teeth pulled out and on the other its image was being tarnished. "Jaleel had relentlessly sought to diminish the Lokayukta appointed by the LDF government. But not once has the government stepped in to restrain Jaleel," Satheesan said. "It is evident that Jaleel's attack on the Lokayukta was with the Government's blessings, " he added.

Law minister P Rajeev, who responded to the motion, took the stand that the original Lokayukta Act passed by the E K Nayanar ministry in 1999 did not adhere to Constitutional principles. He said it went against Article 164 of the Constitution that laid down that a minister continued in office at the "pleasure of the Governor".

The Opposition Leader argued that Article 164 was not absolute. "If a member is disqualified under the Representation of People's Act, can he continue in office at the pleasure of the Governor," Satheesan said. Further, he said a minister could not continue if a quo warranto writ was filed. He said the Supreme Court had ruled that a quo warranto writ was maintainable over Article 164 in the Jayalalitha issue. The former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister had taken oath as Chief Minister when she was sentenced to a three-year jail sentence.

Satheesan termed as "illegal" the law minister's assertion that the original Lokayukta law was unconstitutional. "No one, except the courts, has the authority to say that a law passed by the legislature was unconstitutional. There is a presumption of constitutionality. Any law passed by a legislature or the Parliament is constitutional, " he said.

By saying the law was unconstitutional, Satheesan said the minister was setting a dangerous precedent. "He was actually telling the public that the law need not be obeyed," he said.

If earlier the Lokayukta's recommendation was binding on the government, the Lokayukta Amendment Ordinance, 2022, takes away this power. The competent authority can now conduct a hearing on the findings of the Lokayukta and either reject or accept its recommendations. "If you are not going to accept the Lokayukta's findings, why can't you just disband it, " Satheesan said.

However, former opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala was conspicuous by his absence. Chennithala had earlier said he would move a resolution seeking the withdrawal of the ordinance, but it did not find takers in the Congress. The Congress leadership was bitter that Chennithala's was an arbitrary move made without consulting the top brass of the Congress.

Law minister Rajeev rubbed it in saying that the adjournment motion was moved to undermine Chennithala.

The comments posted here/below/in the given space are not on behalf of Onmanorama. The person posting the comment will be in sole ownership of its responsibility. According to the central government's IT rules, obscene or offensive statement made against a person, religion, community or nation is a punishable offense, and legal action would be taken against people who indulge in such activities.