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Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan clears controversial ordinance to amend Lokayukta Act

With this amendment, the state government would have the power to “either accept or reject the verdict of the Lokayukta after an opportunity of being heard”.

Written by Shaju Philip | Thiruvananthapuram |
Updated: February 8, 2022 3:33:01 am
Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan (File Photo)

A day after his meeting with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan on Monday gave his assent for the controversial ordinance to amend the Kerala Lokayukta Act 1999.

With this amendment, the state government would have the power to “either accept or reject the verdict of the Lokayukta after an opportunity of being heard”.

Currently, under Section 14 of the Act, a public servant is required to vacate office if directed by the Lokayukta. The amendment has taken away this mandatory nature of the verdicts by the quasi-judicial anti-corruption body. Post-amendment, a Lokayukta verdict would have only recommendatory jurisdiction, not a mandatory one.

The move of CPI(M), which at the national level had always advocated for “strong” and “effective” Lokpal and Lokayuktas, to clip the wings of the anti-corruption watchdog has caused a furore in the ruling LDF as well as the Opposition UDF. The decision to bring in an ordinance to dilute the powers of the Lokayukta was not discussed in the LDF.

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The proposal for recommending the Governor to promulgate the ordinance came up at the virtual cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan from the US in the third week of January. CPI ministers in the cabinet did not oppose the move, but party state secretary Kanam Rajendran criticised it. He wanted the proposed amendment to be presented in the Assembly session as a Bill, instead of being promulgated as an ordinance. He also questioned the urgency behind the ordinance.

Even after the governor gave his consent for the ordinance, Rajendran expressed his reservations on the issue. “Governor might be convinced about the urgency behind the ordinance,” he said.

In the last two weeks, the government had tried to convince the governor about the amendment. The Opposition Congress had met the governor urging him not to give sanction for the ordinance.

The government was of the opinion that the existing Act denies natural justice as there is no provision for even an appeal. There have been two high court verdicts which said the Lokayukta has only recommendatory jurisdiction and not mandatory one. There was legal advice that Section 14 of the Lokayukta Act is against Articles 163 and 164 of the Constitution. The Lokayukta infringes upon the rights of the Cabinet, said the government. Besides, the government pointed out that states have the autonomy to frame their own laws and the Lokayukta’s powers vary from state to state on various aspects, such as tenure, and need of sanction to prosecute officials.

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