Curtail the powers of Lokayukta, Kerala Assembly passes the bill

New Delhi: The Kerala Assembly on Tuesday passed the Lokayukta (Amendment) Bill, which dilutes the powers of the anti-corruption Lokpal.

The amendment to the Lokayukta Act, 1999, which was brought by the EK Nayanar-led LDF government 23 years ago, was passed in the state assembly in the absence of the opposition. The Congress-led UDF opposition first walked out of the house. The bill was put to vote.

Describing it as a dark day in the history of the Assembly, Leader of Opposition VD Satheesan said, “We cannot witness the “murder” of an anti-corruption body.

He said that through this amendment, the government has snatched the teeth and nails of the anti-corruption ombudsman.

The Bill was introduced in the House after review by the Subject Committee. Amendment in Lokayukta makes the orders of Lokayukta irrelevant. Once the bill is signed by the Governor and it becomes a law, the Lokayukta will become a toothless body with the state. The government is getting the power to accept or reject the decision.

The opposition alleges that the government has brought an amendment in view of the possibility of an adverse decision from the Lokayukta on the complainant pending against him in the body regarding the financial assistance to be given from the Chief Minister’s Disaster Relief Fund.

According to the amendment, if the Lokayukta pronounces a verdict against the Chief Minister in a case of corruption, the Assembly will be the competent authority to decide on it, not the Governor. The appellate authority for ministers would be the Chief Minister, while for members of the Legislative Assembly, it would be the Speaker.

With the passing of the bill by the assembly, the approval of the governor now becomes important. It remains to be seen what action Governor Arif Mohammad Khan will take in the matter of the Bill, in the backdrop of the alleged ‘conflict’ between the state government and them. He can send the bill to the President or delay the signing of it. The governor has said for the second day that every provision of the bill will be examined on the basis of constitution and impartiality.