Relief for Kerala CM: Lok Ayukta refers CMDRF case to larger bench

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Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan | Photo: Mathrubhumi

Kochi: In a major relief for Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, the Kerala Lok Ayukta referred the case over alleged violation of Chief Minister's Distress Relief Fund (CMDRF) to a 3-judge larger bench.

The case was referred to a three-member bench due to a split verdict by Justice Cyriac Joseph and Justice Harun Al Rashid. Meanwhile, RS Sasikumar, the complainant, said he would challenge the Lok Ayukta's decision in High Court.

Earlier, RS Sasikumar had approached the Kerala High Court alleging delay in delivering the verdict despite completing the hearing. The court directed the petitioner to approach the Lok Ayukta instead.

The plea was submitted to the anti-corruption ombudsman in September 2018 and the hearing concluded on March 18, 2022. It was presided over by Lok Ayukta Cyriac Joseph and Harun Al Rashid. The petition alleged nepotism and discrepancies in the allocation of Rs 25 lakh to the late NCP leader Uzhavoor Vijayan's family, Rs 20 lakh to Praveen's family, who was the deceased gunman of Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, and the payment of personal debts owed by former MLA KK Ramachandran Nair.

It is worth noting that although the Assembly has passed a bill to limit the Lok Ayukta's powers, it is yet to receive the governor's approval. Currently, the ombudsman has the authority to dismiss ministers, including the chief minister. However, the bill would modify this provision and give the government and governor the final decision in such adverse verdicts. In April 2021, the Lok Ayukta had ordered MLA KT Jaleel to resign as minister on nepotism charges.

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