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Kerala Assembly passes Lok Ayukta Bill despite stiff opposition by UDF

Despite stiff opposition raised by the UDF members and their subsequent boycott, the Kerala Assembly passed the controversial Lok Ayukta (Amendment) Bill

Pinarayi Vijayan

Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan (Photo: ANI)

Press Trust of India Thiruvananthapuram
Despite stiff opposition raised by the UDF members and their subsequent boycott, the Kerala Assembly on Tuesday passed the controversial Lok Ayukta (Amendment) Bill, which seeks to make the executive the appellate authority over reports by the anti-corruption watchdog.
After hours-long heated arguments and debates, the opposition announced their boycott of the day's proceedings saying they did not want to witness the "killing" of the anti-corruption agency using its brute majority in the Assembly.
Before walking out of the House, Leader of Opposition V D Satheesan said it was a "black day" in the history of the state Assembly.
"The opposition cannot support the attempt made by the government to eliminate and weaken an anti-corruption agency. We are registering our stern opposition against passing this bill...we will fight it tooth and nail," he said.
When the Congress-led opposition alleged that the bill, which carries away the rights of the constitutional agency, would weaken the anti-corruption mechanism in a democratic system, the CPI(M)-led LDF government reiterated that the amendment was made to bring the state Lok Ayukta Act in accordance with the Centre's Lokpal Act.
The UDF was particularly critical about the new amendments introduced in the Bill after it was sent for the consideration of the Assembly Subject Committee.
Some new changes were made in the Bill in connection with the competent authorities to whom the Lok Ayukta should make its recommendations after it was sent to the Subject Committee last week and it was in violation of the Assembly procedures, the UDF pointed out.
Congress legislators Ramesh Chennithala and P C Vishnunath raised a point of order saying that the changes in the Bill was in violation of the rules but Speaker M B Rajesh rejected it and gave a ruling in this regard.
Law Minister P Rajeeve rubbished claims of the opposition, saying that the subject committee had the power to make changes in the bill.
When Satheesan argued that it was not right to give powers to the Legislative Assembly to reject or accept the findings of the Lok Ayukta which was evolved through a judicial procedure, Rajeeve countered it by saying that when the House discusses the agency's findings, it could become a public debate.
The opposition also asked if the bill was passed, how could it be expected that the Assembly take a decision against the CM if he is found guilty by the anti-corruption watchdog in any case. As per the bill passed today, the state Assembly will be the competent authority to take decision on the Lok Ayukta's findings against the Chief Minister.
As per the Kerala Lok Ayukta (Amendment) Ordinance, 2022, which was refused to be repromulgated by Governor Arif Mohammed Khan recently, the state government could either accept or reject the declaration by the anti-corruption agency in the cases, finding those holding public office as guilty.
The Governor, Chief Minister or the state government would be the competent authority and he or it may either accept or reject the declaration, after giving an opportunity of being heard, it had said.
Where the competent authority is the Governor, or the Chief Minister or the Government of Kerala, he or it may either accept or reject the declaration, after giving an opportunity of being heard," the ordinance had said.
In other cases, the competent authority shall send a copy of such a report to the Government which may either accept or reject the declaration after giving an opportunity of being heard, it had added.
When the Left government had come up with an ordinance earlier this year to amend the existing Lok Ayukta Act, which had come into being 23 years ago, the opposition Congress and BJP alleged that the government decided to curb the powers of the agency as complaints about its several irregularities were pending before it.
They had also claimed that the agency was considering seriously the charge that the money from the Chief Minister's Distress Relief Fund was disbursed among underserved persons.
During the tenure of the previous LDF government, the then Higher Education Minister K T Jaleel had to resign from the cabinet, days after the state Lok Ayukta's finding that he had abused his position as a public servant to favour a relative.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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First Published: Aug 30 2022 | 9:55 PM IST

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