UDF leaders meet Kerala Governor, ask him not to approve Lokayukta ordinance

Kerala government’s proposal to amend the Lokayukta Act in the state has triggered controversy, with the opposition saying it goes against the tenets of the Constitution.
A UDF delegation meets Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan
A UDF delegation meets Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan
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A delegation of the opposition UDF on Thursday, January 27, met Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan at the Raj Bhavan and submitted a memorandum requesting him not to give assent to the proposed ordinance amending the state Lokayukta Act by the Left government in Kerala. The leaders from the front, led by Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly VD Satheesan, appraised him about the concerns regarding the amendment and pointed out the legal aspects against it.

In the memorandum, Satheesan alleged that the justifications by the government to bring the amendment appeared to be "frivolous, politically driven, and in stark contravention of the established laws in this country."

"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," the UDF representation pointed out.

With the legislative assembly session slated for next month, there seems to be no compelling reason to change the law, which has been in existence for over 22 years, it alleged. It further said that the only immediate reason that could be perceived is that the Lokayukta is about to take up cases against the Chief Minister in the relief fund misappropriation and the Higher Education Minister in the university issue.

It should be understood that the government is expecting an unfavourable verdict in these cases and this ordinance is a shield to guard against any unsavoury decisions from the Lokayukta.

Moreover, the proposed amendment would serve as a catalyst for rampant corruption and nepotism, it said.

"In these compelling circumstances, taking into consideration the interest of the State and public at large, I request your good self to abstain from providing your assent to the Kerala Lok Ayukta (amendment) ordinance 2021," Satheesan added.

He later told reporters outside the Raj Bhavan that the memorandum was given as a continuation of his earlier letter to the Governor requesting the same and the present one has detailed references about legal aspects against passing such an ordinance.

He also said the contested provision in the ordinance was part of the original bill of the Lok Ayukta Act, 1999 when it was first introduced in the legislative assembly during the tenure of the Marxist party veteran EK Nayanar as Chief Minister.

However, due to widespread objections from members of both the opposition and the ruling party during the debate on February 22, 1999, this was withdrawn, he said.

"Actually, this government is pushing through legislation that the Kerala Legislative Assembly debated and rejected," he added.

Besides Satheesan, former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, Ramesh Chennithala (both Congress), CP John (CMP), Mons Joseph (Kerala Congress), G Devarajan (Forward Bloc) and others were part of the delegation.

The CPI(M)-led LDF government in Kerala on Tuesday justified its decision to amend the Lok Ayukta Act, saying the move was to ensure natural justice and make it more in accordance with the Constitution, Lokpal and similar legislations in other states, even as the opposition alleged that it was to 'undermine' the powers of the ombudsman and to facilitate corruption.

State Minister for Law, P Rajeev had said the move to promulgate an ordinance was not a sudden decision as alleged by the opposition but the process began last April during the tenure of the previous government.

He also said the government considered the suggestion for new legislation in view of two High Court verdicts saying the Lokayukta does not have mandatory jurisdiction but only recommendatory jurisdiction.

The Advocate General (AG) also gave a legal opinion that Section 14 of the Act was in violation of the Constitutional articles 163,164 and suggested amending it to make it more in accordance with the existing laws in the country, he added.

During the tenure of the previous LDF government, the then Higher Education Minister KT Jaleel had to resign from the cabinet, days after the state Lokayukta's finding that he had abused his position as a public servant to favour a relative.

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