Thiruvananthapuram: The petition against the misuse of the Chief Minister's Distress Relief Fund (CMDRF) was admitted on file in 2019 by the Lok Ayukta based on the majority judgment by a three-member bench over a split verdict of the two-member bench at the time. The issue is being referred to the full bench again due to the argument that there is a difference of opinion in the two-member bench, even after the arguments were concluded, and the petition was adjourned for delivering the verdict.
The verdict delivered by the then Lok Ayukta, Justice Pius Kuriakose, on November 1, 2018, had stated that there was a difference of opinion between him and the Upa Lok Ayukta, Justice A.K. Basheer, on the issue of whether the complaint could be admitted on file, and therefore, the case was being referred to the full bench. "The Lok Ayukta Registry must take immediate measures to bring it before the full bench for consideration on an emergency basis. The complainant must submit the third set of documents immediately. The petition will be considered as soon as they are received," the verdict stated.
However, the Lok Ayukta, Justice Cyriac Joseph, who said that he had a difference of opinion with the Upa Lok Ayukta, Justice Harun al Rashid, on the issue of whether the Lok Ayukta can examine the case, merely said that the issue is being referred to the full bench. He also said that the Lok Ayukta would decide when to consider the case.
It was in September 2018 that R.S. Sasikumar, the former Syndicate member of the Kerala and Kochi Universities, submitted the complaint. The Lok Ayukta issued a summons to the Chief Secretary requiring him to produce the original records of the Cabinet decision. The Director-General of Prosecution, Manjeri Sreedharan Nair, appeared for the Chief Secretary. He argued that the Chief Minister was fully empowered to sanction money from the relief fund and that a significant part of the fund came from budget allocation and asked for the rejection of the petition.
Since there was a difference of opinion in the two-member bench on whether the complaint could be admitted on file, a full bench which included the Upa Lok Ayukta, K.P. Balachandran, heard the arguments in 2019. While two members took the stand that the Lok Ayukta can examine the case, one member said that decisions taken by the Cabinet would not come under the jurisdiction of the Lok Ayukta. The new verdict delivered the other day came after the case was admitted on file based on the majority decision, and the final arguments were heard.
The complainant, R.S. Sasikumar, has said that he would move the Division Bench of the High Court against the latest decision of the Lok Ayukta. The verdict does not make it clear what the difference of opinion was between the Lok Ayukta and the Upa Lok Ayukta. Sasikumar said that the judgment does not explain why there was a difference of opinion, although it says that the difference was on the question of whether the Lok Ayukta could legally examine the decision taken by the Cabinet to sanction funds from the Chief Minister's Distress Relief Fund.