A full bench of the Kerala Lokayukta, the body constituted to investigate allegations of corruption against public servants, has by a majority decision decided to admit a complaint regarding alleged mismanagement of funds from the Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Fund (CMDRF). A notice has been issued to the Kerala Chief Minister and the Cabinet of Ministers regarding the decision.
The petition was filed by Kerala University former syndicate member RS Sashi Kumar, and makes complaints of favouritism in the disbursal of money received under the CMDRF. The complaint pertains particularly to allegations of fund mismanagement and favouritism towards individuals namely late NCP leader Uzhavoor Vijayan and former CPI(M) leader KK Ramachandran Nair, and to the family of Praveen, a Civil Police Officer who died in an accident while undertaking escort duty for Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, the State Secretary of the CPI(M).
The full bench, comprising Justice Pius C Kuriakose (Lokayukta) Justice K P Balachandran, (Upalokayukta) and Justice A K Basheer (Upalokayukta) ruled in a 2-1 split that the complaint is admissible before the Lokayukta. Justice AK Basheer dissented from the majority decision, pointing out that the CM has his own discretionary powers in allocating funds to families, that the decisions being discussed in the complaint were taken by the entire Cabinet, and that such Cabinet decisions were above judicial scrutiny. Justice KP Balachandran opined that the complaint is still liable for investigation, and that the Kerala Lokayukta cannot avoid conducting an investigation purely because the matter pertained to Cabinet decisions.
A previous divisional bench, comprising Lokayukta Pius C Kuriakose and Upalokayukta AK Basheer, had earlier disagreed on this issue, with Justice AK Basheer stating that cabinet decisions cannot be subject to judicial scrutiny, while Justice Kuriakose asserted that the Lokayukta did have the jurisdiction to look into the case. This split caused a full bench to be constituted to hear the issue.
While admitting this complaint, the Lokayukta also clarified that as of now, just by admitting the complaint, it does not mean that anyone has been found guilty of the allegations, but merely that there are grounds for the petition to be admitted and investigated to see if anybody was guilty of the allegations made.
The case is now scheduled to be heard on 15 February, 2019.