Congress-led United Democratic Front leaders today met the Governor of Kerala alleging that Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan is trying to dilute the office of the state’s corruption watchdog. They also raised objections to it being done through an ordinance instead of a bill in the state assembly. Opposition leader VD Sateeshan and former chief minister Oommen Chandy were among those who met Governor Arif Mohammed Khan. After the meeting, they accused the CPI(M)-led government of trying to save the chief minister and other ministers from investigations into cases of corruption against them.
The corruption watchdog, the Lokayukta, investigates allegations against public servants, including the government. The state cabinet has moved for an ordinance to amend the Lokayukta Act bypassing the state assembly, causing uproar from the opposition and even the ruling CPI(M)’s biggest political ally.
“After 22 years now, the government is saying provisions of the Lokayukta Act is unconstitutional. Now they are trying to bring the amendment only to save the CM because there are 4 cases pending before the Lokayukta”, VD Sateeshan said after meeting the Governor.
Even CPM’s biggest ally – the CPI – has hit out at the ordinance being moved instead of a discussion in the assembly.
“When the assembly is set to meet in just a month, people have not understood the need for an ordinance. Via a bill in the assembly, everyone will have the freedom to state their opinion on this issue,” CPI Secretary Kanam Rajendran had told the media.
The proposed ordinance, yet to be signed by the Governor, seeks for Lokayukta powers to be restricted to making “recommendations” or reports to the state government on corruption and maladministration, instead of mandatory compliance.
The CPI(M) and the government have strongly backed the move, saying it is based on the legal advice received in April 2021.
“As per the constitution, it is clearly stated that disqualification of MLAs and the appointment of ministers and chief minister are the constitutional power of the Governor as per article 164 of the constitution. A semi quasi-judicial body cannot make a decision to disqualify a constitutional authority. Constitutional positions cannot be overruled by a statutory position,” Kerala Law Minister P Rajeev told the media today.
A minister in the left government’s previous term was forced to step down amid allegations of corruption.