Amendments to Lok Ayukta: State puts pressure on Governor; opposition cries foul

By Aneesh Jacob

2 min read
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Photo: Lathessh Poovathur | Mathrubhumi

Thiruvananthapuram: The state government is gearing up to make amendments that could limit the power of state Lok Ayukta by putting pressure on the governor to get the ordinance approved. For this, law minister P Rajeeve visited Governor Arif Mohammad Khan on Tuesday. However, Governor is of the view that the ordinance should not be approved in haste and directed the Raj Bhavan officials to look into the matter.

According to the Lok Ayukta act, it holds the power to declare that a public servant is not qualified to hold office if they are found guilty of corruption. Questioning this, the state government has come up with an amendment that could limit the power of Lok Ayukta in this regard. Once found guilty by the Lok Ayukta, the public servant can approach the High Court, the appellate authority, only after they have resigned.

The new amendment stipulates that such a decision of the Lok Ayukta should be reviewed by the concerned authority (Governor / Chief Minister / Government) within three months. It is argued that the ordinance will also require the approval of the President as it is an amendment that naturally affects the powers of the High Court as well.

Meanwhile, opposition leader VD Satheesan wrote a letter to the governor demanding that the ordinance should not be approved. By clipping the powers, it will only help lower the status of the state’s most significant institution, he said.

The government argues that the final decision on the disqualification of an accused public servant falls on Lok Ayukta which is unconstitutional. Interestingly, in 1999, the state has received the President's approval for the Lok Ayukta Act for legislation affecting the jurisdiction of the High Court.

But the government's memorandum to the governor points out that since it is a state issue, the decision can be taken here and approved by the governor himself. Subsequent amendments to the original law were not approved by the President. However, it is worth noting that this amendment was intended to extend the deadline for MPs to submit property and financial information. The approval of the President was not required as it was not a matter of the High Court.

Even vigilance investigations against people's representatives, including current ministers, require the governor's permission. The law, introduced by the central government, limits the possibility of vigilance investigations against members of the public.

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