Cong seeks Yechury’s intervention in Kerala Lokayukta tweak

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With the Congress, BJP and ruling Left ally, Communist Party of India (CPI), all slamming the manner in which Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan decided to tweak the Lokayukta guidelines, the Congress on Saturday wrote to CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury to intervene in the matter.

The Congress also asked the state government to refrain from moving forward with this extremely regressive legislation that will render the Lokayukta toothless.

Leader of Opposition V.D. Satheesan, who wrote a three-page letter to Yechury, said that the Congress have always been appreciative of the progressive stance taken by the latter and the CPI(M) on the need for “strong” and “effective” Lokpal and Lokayuktas to tackle the scourge of corruption.

“Please recall that during Rajya Sabha debates on the Lokpal Bill in 2011 and 2013, you (Yechury) had vehemently argued for the need to make the Lokpal autonomous, transparent, comprehensive and independent of political control. Bringing corporate houses and foreign-funded NGOs under Lokpal’s purview, electoral reforms, and bringing the CBI under Lokpal’s purview to free it from the clutches of political masters, were some of the noteworthy and laudable suggestions you (Yechury) made during those discussions,” Satheesan’s letter added.

He pointed out that through articles in its mouthpiece and documents published, the CPI(M) has also argued for vesting Lokpal with quasi-judicial powers and keeping the institution free from legislative and executive interference in strict adherence to the division of powers that forms the basic structure of the Constitution. It also insists on the state governments to accept and act on the decisions of the Lokayukta.

The editorials also urge other parties to display the level of political morality shown by the CPI(M) to combat the menace of corruption, Satheesan added.

“Unfortunately, the proposed ordinance to amend the Kerala Lokayukta Act, 1999, is in stark contradiction to the progressive stance taken by your (Yechury’s) party and your good self on strengthening Lokpal or Lokayukta to combat corruption. Furthermore, the ordinance puts the political morality of the CPI (M) at stake and would reduce the bold and strong stance taken by your good self and the CPI (M) to mere political rhetoric to eyewash the common public,” says the Leader of Opposition.

Satheesan points out that the Lokayukta was floated by former Kerala Chief Minister and CPI(M) leader E.K. Nayanar in 1999.

He adds that the proposed amendment, which was rushed through as an ordinance, gives the competent authority whether the Governor, Chief Minister or the state government the power to either accept or reject the Lokayukta’s decision.

This amendment literally removes the Lokayukta “tooth and nail”. During the Lokayukta’s 22-year history, it has only issued one ruling citing Section 14 of the Act, directing former Kerala Minister K.T. Jaleel to quit office in 2021.

The Lokayukta ruling was upheld by the Kerala High Court and the Supreme Court, establishing that Section 14 is in conformity with the indian Constitution,” said Satheesan.

The Leader of Opposition points out that with the Kerala Assembly session slated for February and no compelling reason to amend the 22-year-old statute, the hastiness in bringing this ordinance is suspicious.

“There seems to be no other reason except that the Lokayukta is about to take up cases against the Kerala Chief Minister and the Higher Education Minister. It is clear that this amendment is a shield to guard against any unfavourable decisions from the Lokayukta. The Lokayukta was the only tool left to question the Executive’s corruption and nepotism. However, rendering the Lokayukta toothless will only serve as a catalyst for corrupt public servants to engage in widespread corruption. I therefore request you to intervene in this matter and direct the state CPI(M)-ruled government to refrain from moving forward with this,” the letter added.

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