The state government can now either accept or reject the declaration by the anti-corruption agency Lokayukta in cases finding those holding public office as guilty, according to the Kerala Lokayukta (Amendment) Ordinance, 2022, signed by Governor Arif Mohammed Khan. The Governor, Chief Minister or the state government would be the competent authority and they may either accept or reject the declaration, after giving an opportunity of being heard, according to the ordinance notified in the gazette.
“Where the competent authority 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," the Ordinance said. In other cases, the competent authority shall send a copy of such a report to the government which may either accept or reject the declaration after giving an opportunity of being heard, it said.
"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, it shall be deemed to have been accepted on the date of expiry of the said period of three months," it said.
If a retired judge of the Supreme Court or a Chief Justice of the High Court had been appointed as Lokayukta in the state so far, the Ordinance made it clear that a judge of the High Court can be nominated in the top post from now onwards.
"When the Lok Ayukta is unable to discharge his functions owing to absence on leave or otherwise, the Governor may, by notification, authorise in this behalf, the senior most Upa-Lokayukta available to discharge the functions of the Lokayukta until the date on which the Lokayukta resumes his duties," the ordinance further said.
The notification also made it clear that the ordinance was accorded sanction as the state Assembly was not in session and the Governor was satisfied that circumstances exist which render it necessary for him to take immediate action. After days-long controversies triggered by stiff protests by the opposition, Governor Khan on Monday, February 7, gave his assent to the ordinance promulgated by the Left government of the state to curb the powers of Lokayukta.
The decision of the Governor was criticised by the Congress, the main opposition party, which alleged that there was a deal between the ruling Left and the BJP and that they would legally fight against it.
However, the BJP also came out against the amendment as Union Minister V Muraleedharan said introducing the ordinance was a 'selfish' and 'shameless' move and an attempt to protect Vijayan and Ministers of the State Cabinet. "The ordinance is a blot on democracy...," Muraleedharan said in a series of tweets. He added that the ordinance was a precursor to further erosion of rule of law in Kerala. The CPI, an ally of the ruling Left, also expressed displeasure over it while the Assembly session is scheduled a week away.
The Governor signed the ordinance a day after Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan apprised Khan of the circumstances that led to an ordinance to amend the LokAyukta Act.