Thiruvananthapuram: Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan got a reprieve in a complaint over misuse of CM’s relief fund when a two-member bench of the Lokayukta referred the matter to the full bench of three Lokayuktas in what is widely perceived as a deal to save the chief minister.
Hearing in the case was completed a year ago, but the watchdog body did not announce the verdict until the complainant approached the Kerala High Court, which advised him to go back to the Lokayukta. The delay was despite the Supreme Court ruling against any inordinate delay in delivering the verdict. The Lokayukta has now issued the judgement before the High Court, which is scheduled to hear the progress in the issue on April 3.
Lokayukta's decision to delay criticised
The state government had first prepared an ordinance and then passed a new law to clip the wings of the Lokayukta to place the chief minister above the watchdog, but Governor Mohammed Arif Khan refused to sign it, creating uncertainty about the fate of the chief minister in view of the pending Lokayukta verdict.
It is in this context that the Lokayukta's decision to further delay a verdict has attracted criticism. Significantly, no new date has been proposed for the full bench to take up the case for further consideration.
Three-member bench had earlier settled the matter
The verdict itself has left the issue wide open by referring the matter to a larger bench of three Lokayuktas to decide whether the Lokayukta was empowered to consider matters decided by the cabinet as the decision to grant relief from the fund was taken by the cabinet as a whole.
But curiously, a three-member bench of the Lokayukta had earlier settled this issue, following which the watchdog actually took up the case against Vijayan and his colleagues.
LoP says people lost faith after in ombudsman after Lokayukta's decision
The complaint relates to the grant of relief from the chief minister’s fund to the families of the late Uzhavoor Vijayan of NCP and a former MLA KK Ramachandran Nair and the driver of former CPI-M state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan. The complainant alleged that this smacked of favouritism as the CM relief fund disbursements can only be made on the basis of guidelines set for the purpose.
Leader of Opposition VD Satheesan said the Lokayukta's decision has led to the people losing all faith in the ombudsman and it is obvious that there is a deal.
KPCC president cites Lavalin case pending with SC for 35 years
An earlier decision by the Lokayukta had led to a minister in the first Pinarayi Vijayan ministry being forced to quit, which led to a vicious attack by the CPI-M and the ex-minister himself on the Lokayukta. Satheesan pointed out that the attack is now bearing fruit. KPCC president K Sudhakaran said Vijayan was a past master in managing his cases by citing the Lavalin case in the Supreme Court which has been pending for hearing for the last 35 years.
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