In a move that has drawn the Opposition’s flak, the Kerala government has decided to bring in an ordinance to amend the Kerala Lok Ayukta Act. As per the proposed amendments, the governor, chief minister or the government can either accept or reject the declaration by the Lok Ayukta. The existing Act states that the government should accept the declaration.
The Opposition has criticised the move saying it is intended to water down the powers of the Lok Ayukta. Opposition leader V D Satheeshan wrote a letter to the governor, asking him not to give his assent for the ordinance.
In his letter, Satheeshan said, “It is reliably learned that the proposed ordinance before you has provisions to cut down the powers of the Lok Ayukta to mere advisory in nature, to relax the qualification of the Lok Ayukta. I am afraid that these changes. will only destroy the very existence of the anti-corruption establishment.”
The minister said that there are two high court orders which say that the Lok Ayukta has recommendary Jurisdiction and not mandatory jurisdiction. He added that none of the other states in India have it.
The opposition has also alleged that this ordinance has come at a time when there are cases before the Lok Ayukta against Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Higher Education Minister R Bidhu.
Law minister P Rajeev said that from last April the amendment was under the consideration of the government.
Rajeev said that they have received legal opinion from AG that section 14 is contrary to article 163 and 164 of the constitution.
The amendment of Section 14 of the Kerala Lok Ayukta Act, 1999 says: “Where the competent auhtority is the Governor, or the Chief Minister or the Government of Kerala, he or it may either accept or reject the declaration, after giving an opportunity of being heard. In other cases, the competent authority shall send a copy of such report to the Government which may either accept or reject the declaration after giving an opportunity of being heard. If it is not rejected within a period of three months from the date of receipt of the report or the copy of the report, as the case may be, it shall be deemed to have been accepted on the date of expiry of the said period of three months.”
Satheeshan said in the letter that “the proposed ordinance will curtail the powers of the Lok Ayukta to mere advisory in nature. This is against the very essence of the Lok Ayukta.”
Former opposition leader and MLA Ramesh Chennithala called the move a serious attempt to save chief minister and other ministers in the corruption case. Chennithala had given a complaint before Lok Ayukta against Higher Education Minster Bindhu in the matter of Kannur University vice chancellor appointment.