As many as 11 ordinances promulgated by the CPI(M) government in Kerala became null and invalid on Monday after Governor Arif Mohammed Khan refused to give his consent for their repromulgation. Khan, who said that he would sign these ordinances only after applying his mind “to see if any urgency exists”, quoted a 2017 Supreme Court order and said that re-promulgation of ordinances was tantamount to a subversion of the democratic process.
The government is now planning to introduce these lapsed ordinances as bills in the Assembly. On Wednesday, the Kerala Cabinet decided to convene the next session of the Legislative Assembly from August 22.
1. Kerala Lok Ayukta (Amendment) Ordinance
The government’s amendment of the Kerala Lok Ayukta Act, 1999, is set to dilute the powers of the anti-corruption body. At present, the Act stipulates that the government shall accept the verdict of the Lok Ayukta. With the proposed amendment, the state government will have the power to “either accept or reject the verdict of the Lok Ayukta after an opportunity of being heard”. Further, as per the Act, a person who is appointed Lok Ayukta should have held the office of judge of the Supreme Court or that of the Chief Justice of a High Court. The ordinance had amended that to enable a retired high court judge to be appointed LokAyukta.
The Opposition has accused the government led by the CPI(M) of clipping the wings of the anti-corruption watchdog when, at the national level, the party has advocated for a “strong” and “effective” Lokpal and Lokayuktas.
2. The Kerala Public Service Commission (additional functions as respects certain corporations and companies) Amendment Ordinance
The amendment will see recruitments to state-run enterprises being made through the State Public Service Commission. This, the government said, is to check the direct recruitments made by state-run enterprises that are often marred by accusations of political interference. The amendment will cover appointments to the Kerala Agricultural Workers’ Welfare Fund Board, Kerala Building and Other Construction Workers’ Welfare Board, and the Kerala Shops and Commercial Establishments Workers’ Welfare Fund. In order to include these institutions under the purview of the Kerala Public Service Commission (Additional Functions as respects certain Corporations and Companies) Act, 1970, an amendment to the said Act is required.
3. The Kerala Livestock and Poultry Feed and Mineral Mixture (Regulation of Manufacture and Sale) Ordinance
The government wants to bring in new legislation to ensure safe and quality feed and to regulate manufacture, storage, distribution and sale of feedstuff, livestock, poultry feed and mineral mixture in Kerala. At present, the production of the feed in the state is enough only to meet 50 per cent of the demand. The rest of the demand is met from other states. Besides, raw materials for the production of the feed are sourced from outside the state.
4. The Kerala Maritime Board (Amendment) Ordinance
In 2017, the state government formed the Kerala Maritime Board, bringing the Port Directorate, Maritime Development Corporation and Maritime Institute under the Board. The main objective of the Board, which was formed by previous Congress regime, was to coordinate work on coastal development carried out by various departments and monitor maritime activities. The amendment to the 2017 law, under which the Board was set up, is to fix the qualifications and term of the Board chairman and its members, apart from appointing an administrator. Though the amendment brings all staff members of the Port Directorate under the Maritime Board, they will continue as state government employees.
5. The Kerala Private Forests (Vesting and Assignment) Amendment Ordinance
The Kerala Private Forests (Vesting and Assignment) Act, 1971, provides for vesting private forests with the government and assigning them to farmers for cultivation. As per the Kerala Land Reforms Act of 1963, certificate of purchase is a conclusive proof of the assignment to the tenant as well as the rights of the land owner. In 2019, the Supreme Court had held that the certificate of purchase is proof that a land owner has been in possession of a particular land as a cultivating tenant and the said land is exempted from vesting. Now the Government fears that this condition would lead to the state losing the private forests vested with the state and adversely affect the state interest in several cases pending in the court. The Act is thus being amended with retrospective effect from 1971.
6. The Kerala Industrial Single Window Clearance Boards and Industrial Township Area Development (Amendment) Ordinance
The 1999 Act by the same name provides for speedy issue of various licenses, clearances and certificates required for setting up and expanding enterprises and industrial townships. The CPI(M) government has decided to constitute a secretariat for assisting the State Board and to coordinate the functions of various departments and agencies.
7. The Kerala Public Enterprises Selection And Recruitment Board Ordinance
To constitute an autonomous Board for recruitment in Public Sector Undertakings under the administrative control of the Industries Department.
8. The Kerala Public Health Ordinance
An ordinance to consolidate existing laws relating to public health in the state and to provide for better management and handling of public health. In Kerala, the Madras Public Health Act, 1939, and the Travancore Cochin Public Health Act, 1955, are currently in force in case of public health emergencies. Diseases such as Covid are being tackled through the coordinated activities of various departments.
9. The Kerala Jewellery Workers’ Welfare Fund (Amendment) Ordinance
The Act was enacted to provide for the constitution of a fund to ensure the welfare of workers and self-employed persons engaged in the processing of gold and other metals. The ordinance was brought in to increase the contribution of workers to the fund from Rs 20 a month to Rs 50. The government will make an annual contribution that’s five per cent of the amount remitted by the member.
10. The Kerala Cooperative Societies (Amendment) Act
The proposed amendment to the 1969 Act aims to strengthen the functioning of dairy co-operative societies and to bring in transparency through measures such as ensuring that only active dairy farmers can become members of the co-operative societies and its managing committees. The amendment also proposes to limit the term of the members of the managing committees of the Regional Co-operative Milk Producers’ Union to a maximum of three terms, and to ensure women participation in these societies. The Opposition Congress has taken exception to the amendment, saying it would undermine the democratic functioning of the state dairy co-operative Milma. The amendment gives the government the power to dissolve any society and bring it under an administrator.
11. Kerala Local Self Government Common Service Ordinance
The proposed legislation proposes to constitute a Local Self Government Common Service by integrating the services under Panchayat, Municipality, Local Self Government Department (Planning) and the services of Rural Development and Local Self Government Engineering Division.