Kerala governor signs amendment curtailing powers of Lokayukta | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Kerala governor signs amendment curtailing powers of Lokayukta

Feb 07, 2022 06:03 PM IST

The new amendment takes away Section 14 of the Kerala Lokayukta Act, under which a public servant was required to vacate the office immediately if indicted by Lokayukta. Now, it has only recommendatory authority, not mandatory jurisdiction.

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Kerala governor Arif Mohammad Khan on Monday signed a controversial ordinance to amend the Kerala Lokayukta Act 1999 curtailing powers of the anti-corruption body.

The opposition Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had asked Kerala governor Arif Mohammad Khan not to sign the ordinance which they said will turn the Lokayukta redundant. (File/ANI Photo)
The opposition Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had asked Kerala governor Arif Mohammad Khan not to sign the ordinance which they said will turn the Lokayukta redundant. (File/ANI Photo)

Earlier opposition Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) asked the governor not to sign the ordinance which they said will turn the Lokayukta redundant. Now with the governor giving his assent, “a competent body will have power either to accept or reject the verdict of Lokayukta after giving an opportunity to hear parties concerned.”

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One of the strongest anti-corruption bodies of the country, under Section 14 of the Kerala Lokayukta Act, a public servant is required to vacate the office immediately if indicted by Lokayukta. But the new amendment takes away Section 14 and now it has only recommendatory authority, not mandatory jurisdiction. Now its verdict can be accepted or rejected by a competent authority constituted by the executive.

Interestingly, the Kerala Lokayukta Act was enacted by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)] government led by E K Nayanar in 1999 who always favoured a strong body to check corruption and included all posts under its ambit. When newsmen asked about this, party state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said last week that “political situation in the country is now different from Nayanar era.” The government’s move surfaced at a time when Left parties were demanding that all high offices including the Prime Minister should come under the ambit of Lokpal.

Ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) partner Communist Party of India (CPI) had expressed its reservation over the ordinance and even after the governor’s assent, its leader Kanam Rajendran said the party’s concern remained unsolved. “Our position remains same. No discussion was held on this and we could have waited till the assembly session instead of taking an ordinance route,” he said. He took a dig at the Governor also saying “he might have convinced about urgency behind the ordinance”.

Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan who returned to the state on Saturday after a week-long UAE visit called on the governor on Sunday and held one-hour discussion on this. The Congress has deplored the decision of the governor saying “both the BJP and the CPI(M) have arrived at an understanding to help each other to weaken the Congress.”

“The Lokayukta Act was there for last 23 years and what is the need to amend it all of a sudden. The government got panicked after three cases against the CM are coming up before the anti-corruption body. These cases forced the government to curtail powers of the body. It is a shame on the party,” said opposition leader V D Satheesan adding the government insulted the law-making body.

The BJP also criticised the governor’s action. “We thought the governor will return it without signing it. Now the new amendment has given a free licence to the government to indulge in corruption,” said party state president K Surendran. But CPI(M) leader A Vijayaraghavan has welcomed the governor’s decision.

Last year, then higher education minister K T Jaleel was forced to resign after the Lokayukta found him guilty of nepotism. Jaleel was found to have lobbied for a relative to be appointed as the general manager of the State Minority Welfare Corporation. He allegedly diluted some of the qualifications required for the post to fit in his kin. Though Jaleel moved the high court and Supreme Court, both refused to entertain his plea against Lokayukta’s ruling. Political observers feel that Jaleel verdict might have forced the government to take a hasty ordinance route. “We never expected this from a Left government,” said Joseph C Mathew, a political analyst.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Ramesh Babu is HT’s bureau chief in Kerala, with about three decades of experience in journalism.

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