Kerala Lokayukta amendment ordinance signed by Governor amid row

The opposition had earlier submitted that the ordinance reduces the powers of the Lokayukta, and alleged that it would pave the way for corruption and nepotism in the government
Kerala Chief Minister met with Kerala governor Arif Mohamed Khan
Kerala Chief Minister met with Kerala governor Arif Mohamed Khan
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Kerala Governor Arif Mohamed Khan has signed the Kerala Lokayukta Amendment ordinance, on Monday morning, February 7. The document was signed after Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan met the Governor over the Lokayukta issue on Sunday, after the former’s return from abroad. During the over-an-hour long meeting held at the Governor's official residence, CM Pinarayi Vijayan is learnt to have apprised the Governor of the circumstances that led to bring an ordinance to amend the Lokayukta Act.

According to critics, the ordinance curtails the power of the agency granted by the original Lokayukta Act of 1998. The Kerala government has brought in the ordinance to amend the Act in a manner that gives it powers to reject the report of the anti-corruption ombudsman, thereby reducing its powers. Vijayan also reportedly told the Governor that Section 14 of the Lokayukta Act — which allows the Lokayukta to remove a corrupt official from power and prevent them from holding office again —  is against Articles 163 and 164 of the Constitution and that the Lokayukta infringes upon the rights of the cabinet.

Meanwhile, the Congress urged the Governor to not sign the ordinance, claiming that the amendment goes against the tenets of the Constitution. In January, a delegation of UDF leaders submitted a memorandum against the amendment to the Governor, in which they alleged that "in this ordinance, the executive is openly proclaiming a statute that has been in effect for 22 years to be unconstitutional and is proposing an ordinance to change the provision. This is ultra vires and goes against the fundamental tenets of the Indian Constitution." It also alleged that the ordinance would pave the way for corruption and nepotism, at a time when complaints of several irregularities of the government were pending.

Sunday’s meeting also marked the first time that the Chief Minister and the Governor met after a row broke out over the alleged differences between the government and the Raj Bhavan, regarding the alleged political interference in the functioning of state universities.

(With PTI and IANS inputs)

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