The central government's recent "investigations" in Kerala has drawn large-scale criticism even as some people defend it by saying that central agencies have a right to investigate. The state government, however, has set up an enquiry commission into these investigations.
The cabinet has decided to set up a judicial commission as per the Commission of Enquiry Act, 1952. A retired high court judge has been selected for the purpose.
Instances of central agencies acting as the tools of the central government have assumed terrifying proportions all over the country since 2019. From the Central Bureau of Investigation to the Enforcement Directorate, from the Delhi police to the National Investigation Agency, central agencies are faced with allegations of partiality and political motivation. Even the Income Tax department is not free from allegations.
When central agencies persist with their incursions, everyone at the receiving end has a right to resist it politically and legally. However, the state government has created a strange and unpleasant precedent by appointing an enquiry commission. This decision goes against the objectives of the Commission of Enquiry Act.
The state government can appoint a commission to enquire a specific issue in public interest, according to section 3 of the Act. Appointing a commission with political motives to enquire a vague subject with no considerable public interest is against the Act. It is an abuse of law.
Justice V R Krishna Iyer had raised his voice against "rehabilitating" retired judges to further vested interests.
Spending crores of rupees from the public exchequer to probe vague allegations cannot be justified in any manner. In the absence of public interest as laid out in the 1952 Act, an enquiry would be reduced political circus. The Supreme Court had flayed the tendency of governments taking the lead in abusing the law, in the Ramakrishna Dalmia case of 1958.
This is not the appropriate way to resist the incursions by the central government and central agencies. We cannot turn a blind eye towards public protests against the abuse of public money.
(The writer is a lawyer in the Supreme Court and the Kerala High Court)